US, Canada in different spots in men's hockey at Olympics

The United States and Canada go into the final day of the preliminary round at the Olympics in very different positions

ByStephen Whyno Ap Hockey Writer
February 12, 2022, 5:20 AM
United States players Aaron Ness (42) and Kenny Agostino (11) celebrate after teammate Andy Miele scored a goal against Canada goalkeeper Eddie Pasquale, left, during a preliminary round men's hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 1
United States players Aaron Ness (42) and Kenny Agostino (11) celebrate after teammate Andy Miele scored a goal against Canada goalkeeper Eddie Pasquale, left, during a preliminary round men's hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
The Associated Press

BEIJING -- Claude Julien wants his players to have short memories after Canada lost to the United States.

David Quinn hopes the same for his U.S. players now that they're one victory away from an undefeated preliminary round at the Olympics.

The Americans and Canadians go into the final day of group play in very different situations. While the U.S. would win the group by beating Germany or losing in overtime or a shootout, Canada's got some kinks to work out and has only a lopsided matchup against host China left before the knockout round.

“It’s an opportunity for us to learn what we need to get better at,” Julien said after Canada's 4-2 loss to the Americans. “We can’t afford to have these ebbs and flows in our game. Through adversity, you become better. We’re hoping (Sunday night against China) we’re able to show that we’re going to be a better team from what we’ve lived through today."

Canada might have a goaltending dilemma on its hands after veteran Eddie Pasquale gave up two bad goals to the U.S. Pasquale started each of the first two games with Matt Tomkins backing up and Northeastern University star Devon Levi not in uniform.

Based on his exceptional college season and status as an NHL prospect, it looked before the Olympics like Levi would be the No. 1 goalie. Pasquale's uneven play could open the door for that, unless Tomkins gets a look first.

“I’m not one to make a decision right after a game," Julien said when asked who would start in net against China. "There’s no doubt we’re going to be talking about it, and no doubt we’re going to make a decision here. ... As far as who it’s going to be, not sure yet.”

The U.S. has the opposite problem of two goalies on top of their game. Boston University's Drew Commesso wasn't tested much by China but was solid in stopping all 29 shots he faced, while former Michigan netminder Strauss Mann settled in after allowing a soft goal early against Canada and made 35 saves in a tougher matchup.

Barring a regulation loss to Germany, the U.S. will be one of the four teams advancing directly to the quarterfinals and avoiding the qualification round. The Russians are already assured of that, and the winner of Sweden-Finland on Sunday — and both if the game goes to overtime — will join them.

“We obviously need to take care of Germany,” said Sean Farrell, who leads the U.S. in scoring with six points. “But our goal from the beginning was to win these three games and now that we’re kind on to Germany, we can focus on them and keep building on what we’ve been doing and play fast and play hard against them.”

The Americans played fast and hard against Canada to put themselves in this position, but Quinn said it's now up to players to understand they haven't accomplished anything yet. It's a fine line between belief and overconfidence for the youngest team in the tournament.

“If you can’t enjoy this, why’d we come?” Quinn said. “We can enjoy this game (and) reset. ... We’ve got to be ready to go (against Germany) because tomorrow’s game is just as important as the one we just played.”

Canada's next important game will either be in the qualification round or the quarterfinals, depending on how the rest of the action shakes out. With gold medal expectations, perhaps an extra practice game against China wouldn't hurt, because the Canadians have more than just goaltending problems.

“It’s definitely hard,” winger Josh Ho-Sang said. "We are working our best. We are watching video and we are talking to each other a lot. We will continue to get better as the tournament goes on, but that’s just hockey.”

———

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

———

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events