Winter Olympics: Speedy collegian Donato's brace lifts United States of America over Slovakia

Ryan Zapolski of U.S. sprays water on his face. Grigory Dukor  Reuters

The US squad concludes group play with a Saturday night showdown against the Olympic Athletes from Russian Federation.

"When you go through experiences, if you learn from them and you apply them the next time that happens in life or in a game, then it was worth the experience", Granato said.

The quick response could have been disheartening to the US team that had surrendered a game-tying goal with less than 90 seconds remaining two days prior in an overtime loss to Slovenia. If Russia wins in overtime, it will tie the U.S. in points with 5.

Ice Hockey - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Men Preliminary Round Match - U.S. v Slovakia - Gangneung Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea - February 16, 2018 - Ryan Donato (16) of the U.S. celebrates after scoring a goal against Slovakia. "It's a dream come true and scoring definitely helps", Donato said. Joy overflowed again when Donato scored his second of the game that turned out to be the victor as he and his fellow college players led the way in an important 2-1 victory that put the US atop its group heading into weekend play. "We're going to have to stay focused and not get caught up in who we're playing". Granato wondered if 21 players dressing in their first Olympic game combined with the hype and long day before a late start took a toll on his team, which hadn't played together much.

The Russians gave up a two-goal lead as defensive errors allowed Slovakia to end the first period at 2-2.

They certainly look like they belong at this tournament. Slovenia captain Jan Mursak scored the tying goal with 1:37 left in regulation and the victor 38 seconds into overtime.

Olympic Athlete from Russia Ilya Kovalchuk and Noah Welch of U.S. clash during Saturday's preliminary game. Brian Snyder  Reuters
Olympic Athlete from Russia Ilya Kovalchuk and Noah Welch of U.S. clash during Saturday's preliminary game. Brian Snyder Reuters

"They're great players", 39-year-old captain Brian Gionta said. And failing to beat Slovakia at the Olympics is a reminder of more recent problems. They were the better team in the third and it was good enough for them to get the win.

"I think we just knew that we let off the gas there [in the first game] and were very conscious about that, so in the third period [against Slovakia], we made sure that we kept the shifts short, especially in the beginning of the period so we didn't run out of energy, " said O'Neill.

"We're just concerned about getting shots and creating havoc around the net", Donato said.

"It wasn't a flawless game, but I thought it was solid".

If Russia, or the Olympic Athletes from Russia as they are known here, defeats Slovenia later Friday, the Americans (1-0-1) will be leading their pool. "We can get up the ice really quick and transition quick and down low I think we're doing really well possessing pucks, and it's fun".

Both teams are 1-1 in the tournament.

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