The U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey team dropped a 4-3 decision to Finland Wednesday before 6,691 at the Palasport Olimpico in quarterfinal action at the Olympics, ending the Americans’ chances of a medal at the 2006 Games.
“I’m disappointed with the game and the way we played tonight,” said U.S. head coach Peter Laviolette. “We didn’t find any energy until the last 12 minutes of the game and against good teams you can’t do that.”
Finland finished the opening period with a 2-1 advantage. Ville Peltonen opened the scoring at 9:33 when his shot from in front got between the pads of Rick DiPietro (Boston University) and trickled over the goal line. Sami Salo then fired a shorthanded shot from the top of the left circle that glanced off the stick of Team USA’s Mathieu Schneider and up into the upper corner past DiPietro for a 2-0 Finland lead at 12:01.
The Americans got back in the game just 1:13 later when Schneider’s blast from the top of the right circle went off Mike Knuble (Michigan) in front and past Finland netminder Antero Niittymaki.
Schneider evened the game just 1:29 into the second period with a slapshot from the side of the right faceoff circle. Craig Conroy (Clarkson) and Brian Rafalski (Wisconsin) gained assists on the play.
Finland, however, got a pair of power-play goals, the latter a five-on-three version, to open a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes. Olli Jokinen made it 3-2 at 5:06 and then tallied again at 17:10 when his initial shot was saved by DiPietro, caromed straight up and bounced off the mesh on top of the net before coming down and glancing off DiPietro and in.
The United States got within a goal again at 15:33 thanks to Brian Gionta’s (Boston College) goalmouth tip-in of a Chris Drury (Boston University) shot from the left faceoff dot. Drury’s shot came while he was falling to the ice and fending off a defender.
The U.S., which outshot Finland, 16-3, in the third period, had pressure the rest of the way, including the final 1:26 with DiPietro pulled, but could not get the equalizer.
DiPietro made 21 saves, while Nittymaki had 25 stops for Finland.
Team USA finished with a 1-4-1 record in Olympic play.
Notes: Team USA had five games decided by one goal or less in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. Only in 1936 has a U.S. men’s team had that many close calls. That year, Team USA also had five games decided by one goal or less, but in nine total games… Scott Gomez and Conroy led the U.S. in points, each with 1-4–5… Gionta was the Americans’ leading goal-scorer with four… DiPietro played in four of Team USA’s six games and was 1-3-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average and an .893 save percentage … Team USA outshot five of its six opponents. Only Sweden outshot Team USA (26-25) … Team USA finished Olympic play at .222 on the power play (8-36).