Granato pleased with Zapolski’s efforts
Tony Granato knew going into the Olympics that Ryan Zapolski would be his goaltender and that the college kids on the Team USA roster would be counted on to supply offense.
It’s worked just like Granato and the late general manager Jim Johannson had hoped, and just in time: Zapolski stopped 21 shots in his best game of the tournament and NCAA players Ryan Donato and Troy Terry dominated offensively in a 5-1 win against Slovakia that put the United States into Wednesday’s quarterfinals against the Czech Republic.
“Jimmy, like we said since Day One, this is his plan,” Granato said Tuesday’s win. “It’s been a really nice mix.”
Zapolski, a Mahoning Valley Phantom from 2005-07, and Donato both took hits to the head against Slovakia, and both said they were fine afterward.
It looked worrisome at the time.
In a frightening play, Ladislav Nagy crashed into Zapolski’s head and the goaltender was down on the ice for several minutes. Needing to be on top of his game in the Americans’ first elimination game, Zapolski was, even after jamming his neck.
“My hands and feet went numb a little bit, so it just kind of pinched my nerve, I guess,” Zapolski said. “I think I just needed time for the feeling to come back. It took a little bit. It was a little bit of a scary thing for me kind of losing feeling in your body for a little bit, but it went away pretty quickly.”
Donato took a shoulder to the jaw from 6-foot-4 Slovakia defenseman Michal Cajovsky, who was ejected, and didn’t miss a shift despite a bloody nose he thought might be broken. On the next play, he set the screen on James Wisniewski’s 5-on-3 power-play goal in a game that helped the U.S. get its offensive groove back.
“He’s a really tough kid, and you see how much just of a natural goal-scorer he is,” Terry said of Donato. “He’s fun to play with, and if I get the puck to him I know it’s got a pretty good chance of going in.”
Johannson and Granato wanted to bring three to seven college players and hoped they’d be this good. But their first conversation about a player was about Zapolski, a 31-year-old journeyman with no North American professional experience above the ECHL.
Zapolski is among the best goaltenders in the Kontinental Hockey League but conceded “maybe things weren’t going the way I had hoped the first few games” when he allowed a few soft goals. There were none of those against Slovakia.
“In a tournament like this, you only win if you have a good goalie,” Wisniewski said. “You’re going to have to have a good power play and a good penalty kill, but your best penalty killer is going to be your goalie. With his numbers he’s had in the KHL, he’s come in ready to play every game, which has been huge for us.”
Taylor sleeping fine at halftime
Elana Meyers Taylor went to sleep four years ago after the first night of her Olympic competition holding the lead, and her mind couldn’t stop racing.
She plans on sleeping better this time.
Germany’s Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz are the leaders at the midway point of the women’s bobsled competition at the Pyeongchang Games, their two-run time of 1 minute, 41.26 seconds on Tuesday night putting them 0.07 seconds ahead of Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs.
Not holding the lead at halftime didn’t seem to bother Meyers Taylor whatsoever going into tonight’s final two runs.
“I’m going to go attack the track and it’s going to be what it’s going to be,” Meyers Taylor said. “Either I’m going to win a medal or I’m going to go down swinging.”
After the first two sleds, it’s chaos.
Germany’s Stephanie Schneider and Annika Drazek are third, Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans are fourth for the U.S. and two-time defending gold medalist Kaillie Humphries and Phylicia George are fifth for Canada — those three sleds separated by 0.04 seconds, and none of them more than 0.34 seconds off the lead.
Ter Mors medals in different sports
Speedskater Jorien ter Mors became the first woman to win Olympic medals in different sports at the same Winter Games.
Ter Mors added bronze in the short-track arena to the gold she won in long-track speedskating last week.
“That’s really special,” said ter Mors, who skated with the Dutch team on Tuesday in a tumultuous 3,000-meter relay. “I hoped for it coming here into the games but after losing the semis, I didn’t expect to win a medal anymore.”
Ter Mors previously won the 1,000-meter race at the Gangneung Oval.
Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic has a chance to match ter Mors’ feat. After winning the super-G in skiing, Ledecka can add a medal in the snowboard parallel giant slalom on Saturday.
Ter Mors’ bronze came under the craziest of circumstances. With the Dutch team relegated to the B final of the relay, there were four other teams in the A final to share out the medals.
In the B final, ter Mors raced the last short-track race of her career with such abandon that she helped the Dutch team set a world record. Still, it was all supposed to be for naught.