Ryan Donato is single-handedly saving Team USA’s Olympic hockey chances

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The United States could very well be on its way home from Pyeongchang right about now if it were not for 21-year-old Ryan Donato. Team USA bested Slovakia for the second time in these Olympic Games, and Monday night’s 5-1 win was where it counted most. Thanks to the victory, Team USA will head to the quarterfinals to face the Czech Republic on Tuesday night.

So far through four games played, Donato has been a key factor in both of Team USA’s victories. Against the Slovakians the first time, Donato had both goals in the American’s 2-1 victory to keep them afloat in Group B. On Monday, Donato started the scoring for Team USA in the second period, opening the floodgates on a five-goal evening before capping off the victory with his second goal of the night.

Of course, the United States had three other goal scorers in Monday’s qualification playoff. Garrett Roe, James Wisniewski, and Mark Arcobello picked up where Donato left off to help Team USA secure a quarterfinal spot, as the forward’s opening goal wouldn’t have been enough on its own to get the Americans past Slovakia. United States goaltender Ryan Zapolski also had a solid game, keeping the Slovakians from climbing back into it as the 31-year-old made 22 saves in one of his better performances this tournament.

Even still, before those floodgates opened and Zapolski completely shut the door, Donato had scored Team USA’s previous three goals thanks to the Americans being shut out by the Russians to cap off the preliminary round.

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Coming into this tournament, Team USA had just a handful of college hockey players on the roster. Donato is currently in his third year at Harvard University, where he is the team’s leading scorer with 21 goals and 31 total points in 23 games. In the NCAA overall, Donato is fourth in goals and eighth in points per game. So far in these Olympics, Donato has been Team USA’s best scorer with four goals and one assist through four games played.

In a tournament where the United States has scored just nine goals through four games, Donato has made up nearly half of Team USA’s scoring. Donato’s line of Arcobello — who had one goal Monday — and Troy Terry — who had three assists — has accounted for a majority of the United States’ scoring, and likely they’ll continue to be leaned upon as the team faces the Czech Republic on Tuesday.

There’s little time for Team USA to fix the current offensive issues with the team that isn’t Donato’s line. While the Americans were not eliminated from medal contention on Monday night, having one line — and effectively one player — provide most of their offense will not get them far in this tournament.

Still, the United States can thank Donato for putting it into the position to vault into a quarterfinal spot. With tougher opponents down the line, however, the United States may need more than a pair of Donato goals to advance further into this wide-open tournament.

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