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Chemistry, not experience, drives U.S. men's hockey team

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By: USA TODAY Sports By: USA TODAY Sports
By: Scott Charles

The collegiate athletes are leading the offensive charge on the ice for Team USA through the first two games of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, but the veterans have created a culture that allows young players to shine.

Ryan Donato scored twice in USA’s victory against Slovakia, Jordan Greenway netted one of his own in the game vs. Slovenia and Troy Terry’s electric speed has caught everyone’s attention.

However, behind the scenes, leaders such as Brian Gionta, Matt Gilroy and others have cultivated an environment for the inexperienced youth to seamlessly blend in.

“I’ve been so overwhelmed by how nice they’ve been and welcoming to me and the other college guys,” Terry said of the veterans in an exclusive interview with NBC Olympics. “They’ve been so good to us, and I’ve been trying to pick their brains and learn as much as I can."

Terry’s dazzling vision and brilliant playmaking ability was front and center when he split two Slovakian defenders and left a drop pass for a cutting Donato to give the U.S. the lead against Slovenia. But the 20-year-old forward needed the opening game to prove to himself that he can thrive on the Olympic stage.

“The first game was big for me just to get a couple shifts and realize that I belong here,” Terry explained. “The guys might be older and bigger, but I can still make an impact and be a big part for the team. We all got some confidence, and we definitely carried that with us. In a tournament like this, with how fast the college guys are, I think it’s a big advantage for us.”

The group’s resiliency was put to the test after a gut-wrenching defeat in its first matchup, but the team thrived in an identical position the very next game. Leading 2-1 in the final minutes vs. Slovakia, the U.S. pushed the pace and refused to sit back.

“The first game, I think we had them at two periods, and we really should’ve taken it to them in the third,” Gilroy said. “I think we let off the gas, and we had to learn that lesson after that game.”

An overtime defeat could have had a lasting impact in such a short tournament, but the Americans displayed the mental toughness of a team with years of experience.

“We came together as a team and played a good 60 minutes,” Terry said. “I think that speaks volumes to how close we are.”

The U.S. will have the opportunity to secure the top spot in Group B when it squares off with the Olympic Athletes from Russia Friday night.

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