Ryan Donato stayed hot and James Wisniewski finally made his impact felt as Team USA topped Slovakia, 5-1, to advance to the quarterfinals of the Olympic men’s hockey tournament Monday night. Now a matchup against the Czech Republic awaits at 10:10 p.m. ET Tuesday night.
Donato, a prospect for the Boston Bruins, continues to be the Americans’ breakout star in Pyeongchang. With two scores against Slovakia, he’s now recorded four goals and an assist in four Olympic games to keep the U.S. in the mix for a medal.
The first goal Monday came after a failed breakaway by Troy Terry that led to a scramble in the offensive zone. Donato managed to pick up the loose puck near the left faceoff dot and fired a perfect shot that surprised goaltender Jan Laco. The second came late in the third period as an exclamation point on a fantastic night.
For a team primarily comprised of more experienced players, the Harvard University winger has proved to be a leader. It’s a reminder that despite the NHL’s refusal to participate in these Winter Games, the future of American hockey remains bright. Terry, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, and Jordan Greenway, a Minnesota Wild prospect, have been other pieces of that puzzle.
But it’s not like the old guard has completely stepped back.
Wisniewski, a 33-year-old who recorded two 50-point seasons during his NHL career, scored his first goal of the tournament in the second period. The defenseman had struggled to make an impact as a power-play specialist during the first three games, but he showed why management decided to put him on the team with that score.
He was joined on the scoresheet by Mark Arcobello and Garrett Roe, a pair of forwards in their late 20s who are currently two of the top scorers in the top Swiss league. Arcobello scored late in the second period, and Roe helped put the game away with a third-period tally.
The only goal for Slovakia in the game came from defenseman Peter Ceresnak, who now has two goals and two assists in four Olympic games. Otherwise they were shut down by Ryan Zapolski, who made 27 saves on 28 shots en route to his second victory of the tournament.
Now Team USA has a major test 24 hours later as it faces the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals. The winner will likely face Olympic Athletes from Russia, which still has to play the winner of Slovenia-Norway in the quarterfinals. It’s a tough road to the gold medal game for the Americans, but their performance Monday against Slovakia is an encouraging sign that they could at least crash the medal podium.