The men's ice hockey tournament has started off with a couple of upsets. The results could be an indication that the first tournament without NHL players in two decades could be one of the most interesting in years.
The Russian team, competing under a neutral flag as "Olympic Athletes from Russia," (OAR) suffered a major upset in their first game of the tournament on Wednesday, losing to Slovakia 3-2.
What made the loss even more painful for the OARs, was that they had got off to a perfect start. The OARs drew first blood with a Vladislav Gavrikov goal just under three minutes into the first period, while Kirill Kaprizov added another to put the favorites up 2-0 just over four minutes into the match.
However, Slovakia battled back, tying it up with two quick goals of their own, from Peter Olvecky and Martin Bakos in the final four minutes of the first.
After the two teams played through a scoreless second period, Slovakia took advantage of a man advantage, with Peter Ceresnak scoring what would turn out to be the game winner at 8:30 of the third.
After that, the Russians, ranked No. 2 in the world behind the Canadians, pushed for the equalizer, but hurt their own cause when Alexei Marchenko took a tripping penalty at 18:35 of the third, meaning that by pulling the goalie for an extra attacker brought a marginal advantage at best in the final minute.
Comeback win in OT
Wednesday's other match also produced something of an upset with the 15th-ranked Slovenians coming from behind to upset the fifth-ranked United States 3-2.
It took a while for the Americans to get on the board though, with Brian O'Neil opening the scoring at 17:44 of the first, before Jordan Greenway added a second at 12:57 of the second period.
The Slovenians, though, battled back in the third, with Jan Urbas scoring at 5:49 to cut the Americans' lead to one – before Jan Mursak got the equalizer with just a minute and 37 seconds left in the third. Mursak was also the hero in overtime, scoring the winner just 38 seconds into the extra frame to make the final score 3-2.
This is the first men's Olympic tournament to be held without players from the world's top league, North America's National Hockey League (NHL) since Lillehammer in 1994, a factor that may have thrown it wide open. The defending gold medalists, Canada, open their campaign against Switzerland on Thursday, while Germany face Finland, Norway take on Sweden, and the Czech Republic face the hosts, South Korea.