Slovenia, Slovakia stun titans as men's hockey marks its arrival at Olympics

Slovenia, Slovakia stun titans as men's hockey marks its arrival at Olympics

In four cases, players were pulled from their NCAA teams and classes to compete for their country, hearkening to the most famous of U.S. Olympic triumphs: the 1980 "Miracle on Ice".

Slovenia, ranked 15th by the International Ice Hockey Federation, got on the board in the third period when Blaz Gregorc threaded a wrist shot through a crowd in front of USA goalkeeper Ryan Zapolski. Goals from Brian O'Neill and Jordan Greenway helped the Americans build a 2-0 lead. They have not played a single exhibition game together. Still, it's not a great start for a team that already had questions heading into the competition.

USA coach Tony Granato showed a lot of trust in Greenway by having him center the top line with Ryan Stoa and captain Brian Gionta on his wings.

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Which in all likelihood makes Thursday's (Wednesday night on the West Coast) first-round game between the sport's two superpowers at Kwandong Hockey Centre a sneak preview of the Games' gold medal final next Thursday. All 12 teams advance to the single-elimination portion of the tournament, but group play determines seeding; the victor of each group, plus the highest ranking runner-up, earn a first-round bye. Defenseman James Wisniewski has played in more than 500 National Hockey League games and has led Team USA to success before as a member of the team that gave the US its first-ever gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 2004.

Granato kept Team USA's starting goalie under wraps much of a lead-up to the Games, but on Tuesday gave Ryan Zapolski the nod in net for the opener.

Greenway corralled a loose puck on the side of the goal, had an open net and buried it. Americans have four shots compared to Slovenia's one so far.

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The game-tying goal came with under two minutes remaining.

Forward Garret Roe made a nifty pass from behind the net to set up Brian O'Neil at 14:44 of the opening period to give United States of America a 1-0 lead.

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