U.S. men’s hockey coach Granato must get team fo­cused on next game

Amer­i­cans led by two goals un­til late

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - Kevin Allen

GANGNEUNG, South Korea – U.S. men’s hockey coach Tony Granato’s mis­sion now is to pre­vent the dev­as­ta­tion of one loss cre­at­ing an­other.

He made that clear after Slove­nia stunned the Amer­i­cans by com­ing from be­hind to win 3-2 on a goal 38 se­conds into over­time by for­mer Detroit Red Wings player Jan Mur­sak. It was Mur­sak who tied the score with 1:37 left in reg­u­la­tion.

“(If ) you drag this out and think about it for the next 36 hours, we’re not go­ing to be ready to play in a cou­ple days,” Granato said. “This one’s over and done with. And we’ve got to start fig­ur­ing out how to get the en­ergy we need to be ready for the next game.”

This was the kind of loss that gnaws at play­ers and coaches. The Amer­i­cans seemed to be in con­trol, hold­ing a 2-0 lead head­ing into the third pe­riod. Granato called the Amer­i­cans’ first 40 min­utes “great hockey.”

Then, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, they al­lowed Slove­nia to be­come dan­ger­ous in the of­fen­sive zone.

“I thought our en­ergy in the third wasn’t great,” Granato said. “Twen­tyfour guys play­ing their first Olympic game, the hype, the long day. You use a lot of en­ergy. It could’ve been a lit­tle fa­tigue set in men­tally be­cause of the way that the day was. But no ex­cuses. ... They were the better team in the third.”

No need to call out the Amer­i­cans, be­cause they were do­ing it them­selves.

They liked how they played for twothirds of the game and hated how they per­formed in the third pe­riod.

“We started turn­ing the puck over in our zone and they were get­ting chances that led to mo­men­tum for them,” U.S. goalie Ryan Zapol­ski said.

Zapol­ski said after Slove­nia scored its first goal at 5:49 of the third “we were kind of on our heels.”

You could feel the sag in the USA’s play.

“I thought we could have been a lit­tle more self­ish in get­ting pucks to the net and shoot­ing a lit­tle bit more,” said the USA’s Brian O’Neill, who scored once and as­sisted on Jor­dan Green­way’s goal.

The Amer­i­cans have 36 hours to scrub away their prob­lems be­fore fac­ing Slo­vakia on Fri­day. The Slo­vaks up­set Rus­sia on Wed­nes­day as well.

Slove­nia qual­i­fied for the Olympics for the first time in 2014 and showed then that it could be com­pet­i­tive, fin­ish­ing sev­enth.

But this time Slove­nia did it with­out Los An­ge­les Kings star Anze Ko­pi­tar, the coun­try’s best player.

“When we were younger, we never thought we were go­ing to play in the Olympic Games,” Mur­sak said. “There is no re­ally pres­sure on us, no big ex­pec­ta­tions.”

But there is con­sid­er­able pres­sure now on the Amer­i­cans. When you are at the Olympics, you are on the big stage. All eyes will be on them to see how they re­spond to the ma­jor loss.

“Tour­na­ments are about get­ting better each and ev­ery game and learn­ing from what hap­pened,” Granato said. “I think more the mind-set of re­al­iz­ing it’s go­ing to take 60 min­utes to close out any team in a tour­na­ment like this.”

Team­mates mob Jan Mur­sak after he scored the over­time goal that gave Slove­nia the victory against Team USA. JAMES LANG/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

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