U.S. men lose to Czech Republic in quarterfinal shootout at Pyeongchang

Goalie Ryan Zapolski and Matt Gilroy of U.S. react after their shootout loss.Ryan Donato may have had an Olympic tournament to remember, but the U.S. men’s ice hockey team exited in forgettable fashion with a shootout loss to the Czech Republic in the quarterfinal round. Donato is still the tournament goal-scoring leader with five in five games, including the opening goal against the Czechs, but his performance wasn’t enough to lift a ragtag group of college prospects and former NHL players into medal contention.

Donato scored his final goal of the tournament 6:20 into the opening period before two Czech goals put the Americans behind at the midway point of the second period, when Jim Slater scored shorthanded to tie the game at 2-2. That score held through overtime and Czech netminder Pavel Francouz was perfect in the shootout, going 5-for-5 against the U.S. shooters to ensure Petr Koukal’s lone shootout goal became the winner. Donato was one of the shooters turned aside by Francouz as none of the U.S. players were able to capture the spirit of T.J. Oshie’s heroic shootout performance against Russia four years ago in Sochi.

While prospects like Donato, a Boston Bruins 2014 second-round pick, made their case for an NHL career with a strong showing, veterans looking for a way back into the league like captain Brian Gionta didn’t do as well. Gionta, who said he turned down NHL offers to remain eligible for the Olympics, finished the tournament without a point and was generally ineffective despite 16 shots. Bobby Butler was equally unimpressive, while defenseman James Wisniewski - four years removed from a 51-point season in the NHL - was held off the scoresheet in four of five games.

Lack of NHL participation in the Olympics has worked out well for the Czech Republic, which is through to the semifinals for the first time since Turin in 2006. However, the biggest surprise result of the quarterfinal round was a shocking overtime upset of Sweden by Germany - a country that hasn’t seen a medal round since winning bronze in 1976 and failed to qualify for the tournament in Sochi. Germany will face Canada in the semifinals and the Czech Republic will take on the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who remain the betting favourites to win the tournament.