Upsets of Team USA, OAR show men's tournament is truly wide open

Willie Desjardins

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A team who have earned a reputation for punching above their weight, Slovenia captain Jan Mursak tied the game with under two minutes to go by tapping home a rebound and scored the victor less than a minute into sudden-death overtime.

For many hockey fans around the country, the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship is one of the most important hockey tournaments known to man.

But will little time left in the game Wednesday, Mursak lingered toward the front of the United States goal crease, near goalie Ryan Zapolski. Across town, the favored Russians opened Olympic play with a 3-2 loss to Slovakia.

Slovenia knotted the game at two with 1:37 remaining in the third period.

Team USA's debut in the 2018 Winter Olympics degenerated into a nightmare. This year, the United States lost its first game to Slovakia, one of the lesser teams at the tournament.

Jordan Greenway buried a loose puck from in tight at 12:57 of the middle frame as the US took a two-goal lead.

Along came Slovenia's Jan Mursak. Blaz Gregorc cut the lead in half on a shot from the point through a pile-up of bodies in front of the net. In the end, Canada defeated Sweden, 3-1, in the final to take home gold, while the United States defeated the Czech Republic, 9-3, in the bronze medal game.

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The Belgian has firmly established himself among the best players in the Premier League , and the world, since his arrival at Stamford Bridge in 2012.

As for Slovenia, Jan Mursak played 46 games for the Detroit Red Wings from 2010-13, scoring two goals in his National Hockey League career.

Returning to the lineup later in the season, he had trouble finding any playing time, the Red Wings put him on waivers and Mursak signed with Amur Khabarovsk of the KHL.

After a feeling-out period in the first few minutes and American defenseman Noah Welch sliding in front of a wide-open net for the save of the game, the US began drawing penalties with its speed and then found a way to cash in.

Slovenia, the Americans' first opponent in the round-robin preliminary round, enters with much lower expectations.

For the first time since the 1994 Games, NHL players are not on the USA roster.

The game starts at 10:10 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on NBCSN.

Mursak played 25 games for Detroit in 2011-12 and two more in 2012-13.

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