The eight teams who did not earn a bye to the quarterfinals in men's hockey played today to decide who would challenge the four best countries in the world, and who would go home. Host country Russia managed to survive.
Russia over Norway, 4-0
The result here is not shocking considering Norway's top forward and only NHL player, New York Ranger Mats Zuccarello, sat out with an injury. But Russia's goal scorers showed up today, or at least two of them did. Alex Radulov, a former NHL player who left to play in Russia, scored two goals to lead the Russians into the quarterfinals, a redemption for Radulov, who was in the penalty box when the U.S. tied their game, sending it to overtime and then to a shootout. We know how that ended. But the host country will need scoring from Alexander Ovechkin and Evengi Malkin if they hope to survive their quarterfinal game against Finland.
Slovenia over Austria, 4-0
Slovenia should not be here. This is the first time ever the country has ever competed in Olympic hockey, where the bar for entry is usually high. But here they are, now moving to the quarterfinals to face Sweden and looking good doing it. Thanks a lot to Anze Kopitar, usually an L.A. King and an elite scorer, the tournament's biggest underdog went 2-2 through the first four games, and didn't exactly lie down against the U.S. and Russia. Sweden is the best team in the world right now, though, so their quarterfinal match will certainly be interesting.
Latvia over Switzerland, 3-1
Speaking of upsets, no one expected this. Latvia has never finished in the top eight before this year, and most everyone expected that trend to continue. Switzerland's goalie, Jonas Hiller, plays for one of the best teams in the NHL. Somehow Latvia, led by Lauris Darzins, who doesn't play in the NHL, was able to score three goals today, two on Hiller and one on an empty net. Enjoy the moment now, boys. This is big. Too bad Latvia will get crushed tomorrow against the Canadians. (He says, knocking on wood.)
Czech Republic over Slovakia, 5-3
Two old acquaintances dancing for the chance to face U.S.A. in the quarterfinals. The Czechs seemed to decide this one early, taking a 4-1 lead after two periods. But Slovakia battled back in the third, scoring two goals and closing the gap to a single goal. It wasn't meant to be, though. Tomas Plekanec wired the puck into an empty net with less than a minute left to secure the victory, and the date with the U.S.A. tomorrow.
Quarterfinals schedule and viewing guide:
- Slovenia vs. Sweden, 3 a.m. ET on NBC Sports
- Russia vs. Finland, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports
- Czech Republic vs. U.S.A., 12:00 p.m. ET on USA Network
- Latvia vs. Canada, 12:00 p.m. ET on MSNBC