Men’s hockey preview: Pressure’s on for Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane

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All games can be seen live online. TV listings can be found here.

EVENT SCHEDULE

Feb. 12 – Czech Republic vs. Sweden and Latvia vs. Switzerland: both at noon ET

Feb. 13 – Finland vs. Austria: 3 a.m. ET; Russia vs. Slovenia and Slovakia vs. United States: both at 7:30 a.m. ET; Canada vs. Norway: at noon ET

Feb. 14 – Czech Republic vs. Latvia: 3 a.m. ET; Sweden vs. Switzerland: 7:30 a.m. ET; Canada vs. Austria and Norway vs. Finland at noon ET

Feb. 15 – Slovakia vs. Slovenia – 3 a.m. ET; United States vs. Russia: 7:30 a.m. ET; Switzerland vs. Czech Republic and Sweden vs. Latvia at noon ET

Feb. 16 – Austria vs. Norway – 3 a.m. ET; Russia vs. Slovakia and Slovenia vs. United States at 7:30 a.m. ET; Finland vs. Canada at noon Et

Feb. 18 – Playoff game 1 – 3 a.m. ET; Playoff game 2 – 7:30 a.m. ET; Playoff games 3 and 4 are both at noon ET

Feb. 19 – Qualifying game 1 – 3 a.m. ET; Qualifying game 2 – 7:30 a.m. ET; Qualifying games 3 and 4 are both at noon ET

Feb. 21 – Semifinal game 1 – 7 a.m. ET; Semifinal game 2 – noon ET

Feb. 22 – Bronze medal game – 10 a.m. ET

Feb. 23 – Gold medal game – 7 a.m. ET

Want to know key differences between NHL and Olympic hockey? Click here.

U.S. OUTLOOK

The goalie debate of Jonathan Quick vs. Ryan Miller may seem to lean toward Quick, but previous tournaments show that a lot can change (even in a short period of time). The U.S. brass seems pretty happy with either Miller or Quick in net, though.

The United States’ best forwards are now in their prime after surprising for silver in 2010, giving the U.S. its best top-end options since Mike Modano’s peak (that is particularly true when it comes to Patrick Kane, who has matured on and off the ice).

The likes of Kane and Zach Parise will be leaned upon heavily for offense, as the deeper ranks of the team lean more toward versatility and grit than scoring touch. Ryan Suter is far and away the standout from the United States’ defense corps.

PHT’s Mike Halford asks: Did the U.S. go too young on defense, though?

It’ll be very interesting to see if this ballyhooed young group can live up to its potential while handling the pressure. Remember, one of the best Americans in Vancouver was 36-year-old Brian Rafalski, the team’s oldest player. He won best defenseman, made the tournament all-star team and skated with Suter as the team’s top defensive pair.

With Rafalski now gone, Suter looks to be the guy — which could be why Poile was comfortable surrounding Suter with so many young defensemen. At the end of the day, the American blueline sounds like it’ll rely on its star power to get through.

INTERNATIONAL OUTLOOK

Russia is aching for its first gold medal since 1992, with enormous pressure on Alex Ovechkin’s shoulders. Luckily, there are other forwards who are at or near his level on that roster, from Evgeni Malkin to Pavel Datsyuk and departed NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

PHT asks: Are expectations too high for Russia?

Defending gold medal-winner Canada boasts the best on-paper roster as usual. Much like the U.S., they’ll face questions regarding whether they can dominate on the international ice surface after winning gold on familiar NHL-size ice in Vancouver.

PHT asks: Will goaltending cost Canada?

There are plenty of other countries with reasonable hopes of winning a gold medal (or at least getting on the podium), with Sweden getting plenty of consideration thanks to gold from 2006, Henrik Lundqvist and an impressive young group of defensemen.

PHT asks: Are the Swedes healthy enough?

PHT also asks:

Do Austria, Norway, Latvia and Slovenia have a chance?

Can goaltending carry Finland through?

Can Slovakia surprise again?

Will the Czechs regret their snubs?

Can Switzerland still sneak up?

Gaon Choi breaks Chloe Kim record, youngest X Games snowboard halfpipe champion

Gaon Choi
Jamie Schwaberow/X Games
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South Korean Gaon Choi broke Chloe Kim‘s record as the youngest X Games snowboard halfpipe champion, winning at age 14 on Saturday in Aspen, Colorado.

Choi, the world junior champion, landed three different 900s in her third of four runs to overtake two-time U.S. Olympian Maddie Mastro. She then landed a frontside 1080 in her fourth run.

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

Choi became the first Winter X Games medalist for South Korea, a nation with a best Olympic halfpipe finish of 14th. She is six months younger than Kim was when Kim won the first of her five X Games Aspen halfpipe titles in 2015.

“I began snowboarding because of Chloe Kim and now almost being near her level when she was 14, it feels weird that I can see a possibility that I would go beyond her some day,” Choi said through a translator, according to organizers. “I’m already starting to look forward to the next Olympics.”

Kim, the daughter of South Korean immigrants, posted that she has known Choi for almost a decade.

“I feel like a proud Mom,” she posted. “The future of snowboarding’s in good hands.”

Kim, the only woman to land back-to-back 1080s in a contest, is taking this season off after repeating as Olympic champion but plans to return ahead of the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Mastro, who was 12th and 13th at the last two Olympics, landed her patented double crippler (two back flips) on two of her runs, but it wasn’t enough. She was the last woman to beat Kim at the 2019 U.S. Open.

Earlier, American Colby Stevenson earned his second X Games ski slopestyle title, one year after taking silver in ski big air’s Olympic debut. Stevenson, who was one millimeter from brain damage in a 2016 car crash, capped his first two of four runs with 1620s, according to commentators, taking the lead for good after the latter.

American Alex Hall, the Olympic slopestyle champion, was seventh.

Later, Zoe Atkin became the first British female skier to win an X Games title, taking the halfpipe in the absence of Olympic champion Eileen Gu of China. Atkin had two 720s in her fourth and final run to overtake Olympic bronze medalist Rachael Karker of Canada.

Atkin, the 20-year-old and Stanford student and younger sister of 2018 Olympic slopestyle bronze medalist Izzy Atkin, was ninth at the Olympics and never previously won an X Games medal.

Gu withdrew on Friday with a knee injury from a training crash.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

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Madison Chock, Evan Bates win historic U.S. ice dance title for figure skaters in their 30s

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Madison Chock and Evan Bates won their fourth national ice dance title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and made all sorts of longevity history.

Chock and Bates, fourth at the Olympics and third at last March’s world championships, totaled 229.75 points between the rhythm dance and free dance. They prevailed by 22.29 over Caroline Green and Michael Parsons, the largest margin of victory in a U.S. ice dance since it was shortened from three programs to two in 2011.

“This is probably the best we’ve ever skated in our careers,” Bates said on NBC. “I think that’s the statement that we wanted to make.”

Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko took bronze but are likely to be left off the three-couple team for March’s world championships in favor of Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, last year’s U.S. bronze medalists who planned to petition for a worlds spot after withdrawing before nationals citing mental health.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, the top U.S. couple at the 2022 Olympics (bronze) and 2022 Worlds (silver), retired after last season.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Chock, 30, and Bates, 33, who are engaged, became the first dance couple in their 30s to win a U.S. title in the modern era (at least the last 50 years).

Chock and Bates made the nationals podium for an 11th consecutive year, one shy of the record for any discipline.

Bates, who last year became the oldest U.S. champion in any discipline in decades, has made 13 career senior nationals podiums with Chock and former partner Emily Samuelson. It is believed that breaks the U.S. record for a single discipline that he shared with Michelle KwanNathaniel Niles and Theresa Weld Blanchard.

Those records matter less to Chock and Bates than what they’re hoping is a career first in March: a world championships gold medal.

They earned silver or bronze a total of three times. All of the teams that beat them at last year’s Olympics and worlds aren’t competing this season, but Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier defeated Chock and Bates at December’s Grand Prix Final, which is a sort-of dress rehearsal for worlds.

“If we don’t win gold at worlds, we’ll be disappointed,” Bates, whose first senior nationals in 2008 came when new U.S. women’s singles champion Isabeau Levito was 10 months old, said earlier this month. “We’ve set the goal for ourselves in he past and haven’t met it yet.”

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