Team USA Men’s Hockey Hopeful for Gold at Winter Olympics


Team USA is off to the quarterfinals in the men’s hockey competition. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The USA men’s national hockey team is off to a great start in Beijing, winning its first three games of the tournament and securing the top spot in Group A. The Americans steamrolled China 8-0 in their first game and then went on to win two closer matchups against rival Canada (4-2) and Germany (3-2). Some may be surprised at how well they have performed so far, given how young and inexperienced they are. The USA team is largely composed of college players, and no National Hockey League (NHL) players are on the roster. Before the Olympics, it was expected NHL players would be able to compete overseas, but due to issues with COVID-19, the league pulled out at the last minute. However, it does not appear that the missing NHL players are hurting the team too much right now. 

Thursday night’s game against China started slow, with only one goal scored in the first period. After that, the floodgates opened, with three goals scored in the second period and four more goals scored in the third. Forward Sean Farrell, who plays for Harvard University, had a stand-out game contributing five points. Farrell had a hat trick with three goals and then tacked on two assists. While the team undeniably played great offensively, it was the defense by goalie Drew Commesso that secured the shutout. Commesso had an impressive 29 saves, and at 19 years old, he is the youngest goalie to ever start for the men’s national team. This is the first time in Olympic history that China has had a men’s hockey team. Last year, there were doubts about whether or not the Chinese team was even capable of competing on an Olympic level. After this performance, it seems that those concerns may have been warranted.

Team USA faced stiffer competition against Canada but was still able to win against them for the first time since 2010. On paper, the U.S. seemed to be outmatched against their longtime rivals. While most players from the U.S. are in the NCAA, the Canadian team is equipped with players like Eric Staal, who played in the NHL for almost two decades. Canada took an early lead in the game, scoring within the first two minutes of the game. But by the end of the first period, the Americans were on top with a 2-1 lead. It appeared at one point the Canadians may have had a chance, but two costly mistakes in the third period allowed team USA to pull ahead and make the score 4-2. The young American team proved it could hold its own against anybody with this win.

Germany also proved to be more competitive than China, but the U.S. won with a final score of 3-2 nonetheless. The Americans fell behind early, similar to the game against Canada. Germany’s leading scorer, Patrick Hager, scored during a power play only two minutes into the game. Team USA not only cut the deficit but pulled ahead 3-1 by the third period. The final goal was scored by Nathan Smith, a junior at the University of Minnesota and the leading scorer in Division I NCAA hockey. Germany did score late in the third but was not able to tie the game before the end of regulation. Commesso recorded 24 saves, marking another impressive performance after the game against China.

With three wins under their belt, Team USA is ready to head into the quarterfinals. Since they earned the top spot in Group A, they are given a bye and will play again on Wednesday. The U.S. has not won a gold medal in hockey since 1980, when it famously beat the Russian national team in the semifinal round. In fact, the last time the U.S. medaled at all was in 2010, when they earned a silver medal. Although it is still too soon to tell how far this team can go, it is off to a fantastic start. This is a perfect opportunity for many of these young players to show off their skills on an international stage and, hopefully, win for a team that has underperformed in recent years. If they continue to play as they are currently, it would not be hard to imagine them bringing home the gold.