PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – The U.S. men's hockey team doesn't have a monopoly on miracles that occur on Olympic ice.
Slovenia, which had to get through a qualifying process to earn a place in this tournament – and then had to say goodbye to its best player, Kings center Anze Kopitar, because the NHL wouldn't let players represent their homelands here – wrested control of a game the Americans had dominated and rallied for a stunning 3-2 overtime victory Wednesday night at Kwandong Hockey Centre. Playing in only their second Olympic tournament ever, the Slovenians stayed poised and positive while the U.S. built a 2-0 lead and pounced when they sensed the Americans were losing energy and momentum.
Taking NHL stars out of the equation might prove to be a bigger equalizer here than anyone could have imagined. Slovakia's 3-2 victory over the favored Olympic Athletes of Russia on Wednesday provided additional reason to believe this is going to be a wild ride because the talent level doesn't differ much when teams are deploying players from the KHL and second-tier leagues in Europe.
Slovenia couldn't come close to matching the U.S. team's depth and skill at Sochi four years ago. This time, it had no reason to feel inferior. "We know that we had a lot of chances in the first and second period and that we could play with them. It was no problem," Slovenia forward Blaz Gregorc said. "So we just said we need to stick together and fight to the end."
US women's curlers get off to rocky start in loss to Japan
GANGNEUNG, South Korea – As the deficit kept growing, Becca Hamilton anticipated an early finish for the U.S. women's curling team in its first game of the Pyeongchang Olympics. "If you would have asked me after the third end whether we were going to be playing until the ninth, I would have told you no," she said.
While Nina Roth's team lost 10-5 to Japan in nine ends Wednesday, it settled down as the afternoon wore on at Gangneung Curling Centre. With a better feel for the ice, Roth, Hamilton, Tabitha Peterson of Eagan and Aileen Geving of Duluth hope to avoid another slow start in Thursday's games against Great Britain and Switzerland.
The Americans fell into a 7-0 hole after only three ends. They didn't score until the fourth, and it appeared they might concede after Japan's lead swelled to 8-1. But a couple of sweet shots by Roth pulled the U.S. within 8-5, giving them the minor satisfaction of staying on the ice a little longer.
Besides, there is no time to mope in the Olympic round robin. The U.S. has eight games yet to play, starting Thursday with matchups against Britain's Eve Muirhead _ the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist _ and Switzerland's Silvana Tirinzoni.
American pairs skaters Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim advance to final
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – The best skaters make a short program or short dance feel too brief, turning it into a tantalizing glimpse of talent confined to a cruelly abbreviated format.
The exquisite precision of world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China on Wednesday in the first phase of the Olympic pairs competition was a superb taste of a figure skating feast, the best dish in an extraordinarily delectable banquet staged at Gangneung Ice Arena.
Sui and Han's stunning performance to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" brought them a personal-best score of 82.39 points, but couldn't distance them from Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who have 81.68 points.
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada are third at 76.82, with Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany fourth at 76.59. Savchenko, skating in a record-tying fifth Olympic pairs event with her third partner, is still a fiery competitor: While on the ice she asked Massot if he had doubled their planned side-by-side triple salchows, which he had.
Those lost points proved the difference in keeping them out of the top three entering Thursday's free-skate finale.
The American husband and wife duo of Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim, who contributed to the U.S. team bronze medal this week by skating their short and long programs, committed a few errors Wednesday.
She touched her hand down while landing a throw and he stepped out of a jump, but they were among the 16 pairs that advanced to Thursday's final.
They stand 14th, with 65.55 points. They did better in the short program during the team competition, but said fatigue wasn't to blame for their errors in the pairs competition.
"We knew coming in that this was going to be a tough event," Scimeca-Knierim said, clutching the handwritten valentine her husband gave her in the kiss-and-cry area.
"We're not at the point in our career yet where we're aiming to be in the top five or six. Those teams are a little bit more advanced for now, so we just stick to one another and work on what we're good at, and that's enjoying the process."