When Jonas Hiller stopped Sergei Kostitsyn in the third and final round of the shootout to give Switzerland a 3-2 victory over Belarus, Paul Stastny
and Team USA finally knew who their opponents would be in the quarterfinal round of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Waiting may be the hardest part of a compressed tournament like this. Coming off an emotional 5-3 victory over Canada on Sunday, the United States earned an automatic bid in the quarterfinal round - meaning the club had Monday and Tuesday to get in a little rest, work on some on-ice details and watch the qualification round games.
If anyone is concerned that the United States will rest on its laurels following its victory over the host country, Stastny said those apprehensions are unwarranted.
“That night you enjoy it and the next day you get back to work,” said Stastny. “After the game I was excited and went to dinner with the family and enjoyed it as much as I could. But it doesn’t mean too much because you can face them again or another tough opponent because now the tournament really starts.”
Poetically, the tournament for Team USA will now “start” in the exact manner that it actually started.
The United States opened play at the 2010 Olympic Games by topping Switzerland, 3-1, on Feb. 16.
“We’ve played the Swiss and they’re a dangerous team and play well together,” said the Avalanche assistant captain. “You saw what they did against us, Norway and Canada. That’s always a difficult team to play against because they’ve been together for so many years.”
Stastny has gone pointless in his first three games while spending most of his time centering Team USA’s top line. Even so, he knows his responsibilities on this team extend far past putting points on the board.
Throughout the tournament, Stastny has often been given the responsibility of going up against the opposition’s top centers. In Sunday’s crucial preliminary round contest against Canada, he held a +2 plus/minus rating in 15:46 of ice time.
And much like his role with the Avalanche, Stastny has been a fixture in the faceoff circle for the United States. Through the first three games of the tournament, the center has won 54.1% of his draws.
“As long as you’re out there helping the team win,” said Stastny. “Last game felt good. I had a couple of second or third assists that don’t really count but it doesn’t matter because you’re doing something as a line to help the team to do well, and that’s the most important thing.”-Harry Thompson, USA Hockey Magazine Editor-In Chief, contributed to this report