Friday, February 19, 2010

Rafalski's Two Goals Seal US Win

Being one of only three previous Olympians on the United States men's hockey roster, Brian Rafalski was looked upon as a leader in this years games in Vancouver. Rafalski proved his on-ice leadership by blasting two third period goals behind Norwegian goaltender Pal Grotnes.

The United States got on the board early when Plover, Wisconsin native, and former Badger, Joe Pavelski found streaking Madison native Phil Kessel up the middle of the ice who would not be denied. Chris Drury would add a goal before the period was over.

In the second, Pat Kane would get his first of the tournament with an assist from North Dakota forward Zach Parise. After the US and Norway traded goals to make it 4-1, The USA put it away when Parise found Rafalski streaking to the net who burried the puck behind Grotnes. For good measure, Team USA made it 6-1 on a play that featured three badgers getting in on the scoring. Joe Pavelski won the offensive zone faceoff back to defensman Ryan Suter. Suter, made a nice crisp pass over to defensive parter Rafalski who blasted home a one timer in the upper corner to ice the game.
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The United States women's team had already clinched a spot in the semi-finals set for Monday before they even stepped on the ice for this afternoons tilt with Finland. What was on the line was the prospects of avoiding Canada in that semi-final game. Win and they get Sweden, lose, and they get the home team Canada.

The USA never gave it a thought winning the game 6-0. Former Badger goaltender Jessie Vetter was credited with her second shutout of the tournament, also her only two starts. Former Badger defenseman Molly Engstrom continued her stellar play on Thursday netting a goal and assist. Forward Hilary Knight, who has two seasons left of eligibility after the game are over recorded her first ever Olympic goal yesterday afternoon. Meghan Duggan, continued her hot pace with another goal for the United States.

One good piece of news for Team USA is that forward Erika Lawler was able to play after sitting out a game and a half with an ankle injury. She was able to skate 12 shifts for over 11 minutes of ice time. I'm assuming coach Johnson is easing her into it and she should be pretty close to full go on Monday vs Sweden.
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Dany Heatley and the Canadian men's team got a major scare on Thursday night from the Swiss team. I was away and couldn't see the game but from the sounds of it, it was epic. Heatley, the only former Badger on the Canadian team got things started for the home team with a goal in the first period, his third of this Olympic games. NHL teammate Patrick Marleau and former North Dakota star Jonathon Toews got assists on the play.

Heatley would return the favor to Marleau in the second period, assisting on Marleau's goal that gave Canada a 2-0 lead. But the Swiss team would battle back, scoring two second period goals to tie the game at 2-0 and eventually force overtime.

There was no scoring in the OT and the game went to a shoot-out. I don't think it take a genius to figure out who has the advantage in a shoot-out between Canada and Switzerland. Especially when international rules let Sidney Crosby go more than once in the contest. So Canada got the win in a SO and will play the United States on Sunday. Should be an epic match up.

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