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February 16, 2014

DUVALL: A signature moment for Team USA hockey

Tonawanda News — Unless you’re a diehard hockey fan you probably didn’t know the name T.J. Oshie. That is, until Saturday.

One of the last players named to the U.S. Olympic roster, Oshie, a Minnesota native and St. Louis Blues forward, put on a jaw-dropping display in an eight-round shootout against the host Russians. He was put on the team largely for the exact purpose he served Saturday: He’s a shootout specialist. Specifically, he’s got a whopping 53 percent scoring rate over his career — second best among active NHL players.

The Olympics are played under different rules than the NHL and after the first three shooters are finished, teams are allowed to use repeat shooters.

Paging Mr. Oshie.

Of the dramatic eight attempts per side, Oshie took six of the shots for Team USA and cashed in on four of them, confounding Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and creating what’s been the signature moment of the Sochi Olympics so far.

It really was a stunning turn of events. Three of Oshie’s goals went five-hole — hockey terminology for a shot that goes between the goaltender’s legs. 

Twice, Russian shooters scored in the first attempt of the round, putting pressure on Oshie to keep the game alive. Finally, after seven tries, goaltender Jonathan Quick made a stop and Oshie cashed the game winner, another laser between Bobrovsky’s legs, sending a nation of hockey nuts into ecstasy. 

Credit coach Dan Bylsma for the gutsy call to keep using the same shooter over and over, even after he missed twice.

The victory puts Team USA at 2-0 in pool play and virtually assured of a spot in the medal round. It puts the Russians, now 1-1, in something of a bind, needing a win against a talented but struggling Slovakia team — that made a surprise run to fourth place in Vancouver in 2010 — to punch their ticket to the quarterfinals.

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