U.S. men’s hockey builds confidence for Russian showdown by dominating Slovakia

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It’s dangerous to read too much into any single game in hockey, but those who do will probably expect the United States men’s team to handle Russia easily on Saturday.

At the same time that Russia didn’t dominate bottom-tier Slovenia (only winning 5-2), the U.S. thumped what’s expected to be a competitive Slovakia team 7-1 today.

Very different second acts

While Slovenia shockingly out-scored Russia 2-1 in the second period of their game, the United States pulled away from Slovakia in its own middle frame. Phil Kessel (one goal, two assists) & Co. made a 1-0 game a 7-1 throttling with a six-goal second period.

Slovakia either mustered up a better effort or the United States took it easier in the third period, as both teams failed to score and were limited to six shots on goal. Regardless, the U.S. made the resounding first impression people expected from Russia today.

VIDEO: Watch highlights from Team USA’s win

Fuel for overconfidence?

Shabby goaltending from Slovakia might inspire a little too much confidence from the U.S., though. Neither Jaroslav Halak nor his in-game replacement Peter Budaj will feel good about their performances for Slovakia.

Even so, in a short tournament like this, momentum, confidence and luck can be a big factor. With that in mind, it’s difficult to deny that the U.S. is coming in strong while Russia might be doing some soul-searching.

We’ll find out on Saturday if this was a harbinger of things to come for the U.S. and Russia or just a matter of the host country shaking off some early nerves.