USA Hockey Heartbreak As Slovakia Defeats Men's Team in Winter Olympics

Team USA failed to secure a place in the men's ice hockey semi-finals after a nail-biting loss to Slovakia at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Slovakia edged out the U.S. 3-2 in a penalty shootout, becoming the first team to advance to the ice hockey semi-finals.

Team USA's defeat means there will be no rematch of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" against the Russian team.

A Russia v U.S. game in Beijing had been hotly anticipated because of the rising political tensions between the two countries.

Thousands of Russian troops are still massed at the border with Ukraine, with President Joe Biden vowing to "rally the world" against Moscow if President Vladimir Putin orders an invasion.

It will be Slovakia moving on to the semi-finals, however, after an impressive performance on Wednesday. There was less than a minute left of regulation time when a late goal by Slovakia's Marek Hrivik tied the game 2-2.

Neither team scored in the sudden-death 3-on-3 overtime, so the game went into a shootout. The goal drought continued for the first seven penalty shots—until Peter Cehlarik of Slovakia scored. Team USA were unable to score from any of their five penalty shots.

The Russian Olympic Committee also won their quarter-final on Wednesday, beating Denmark 3-1. The other quarter-finals are Finland v Switzerland and Canada v Sweden. The men's semi-finals are scheduled for Friday in Beijing.

Slovakia are returning to the medal round for the first time since Vancouver 2010, when they lost to Finland in the third-place match.

For Team USA, this is the third consecutive Olympics the United States will not be on the podium for men's ice hockey. Team USA won a silver medal in 2010, losing to Canada in the final.

The National Hockey League pulled its players from the Beijing Games because of the COVID pandemic. This left Team USA to put together a unit of mostly college athletes, with some players from Europe and the North American minors.

Before the quarter-final match, Team USA men's ice hockey coach, David Quinn, praised his players for becoming a solid unit so quickly. "[We] really became a team in a short period of time," he said.

"We were very conscious of the type of people we were choosing. We're very fortunate that the players we wanted from a talent standpoint certainly checked the boxes from the people standpoint.

"When you've got all that, you've got a much better chance to have success."

USA Men's Hockey loses Winter Olympics quarterfinal
Strauss Mann of Team USA defends against a shot by Michal Kristof of Slovakia during the men’s Ice hockey quarter-final at the Beijing Winter Olympics. Getty Images