The off-ice drama surrounding the failed drug test by Aleksandr Krushelnitckii continued on Tuesday. The Russian Federation has admitted to the failed test and have apologized. However, they maintain that the athlete did not knowingly use Meldonium. A sample provided by Mr. Krushelnitckii in January proved negative and, according to the Russian Federation, an athlete would need to start using the drug some nine months prior to an event to get optimal results. In short, according to the Russian press release, the use of Meldonium two weeks prior to an event would be useless to an athlete and they infer that Mr. Krushelnitckii was given the drugs surreptitiously. We will continue to follow this story as it evolves.
Those that enjoy on-ice Olympic drama, will certainly be tuning into the final day of round-robin action at the 2018 Olympics. With three combined draws left between the men’s and women’s competitions, only the Korean women’s team and the Swedish men’s team have secured playoff spots.
In the men’s event, victories by Canada and Great Britain on Tuesday ensured that both teams control their own playoff destinies and victories in the final round-robin draw would assure them of playoff spots at 6-3. Switzerland lost their last round-robin game to the United States and must now wait to see if their record of 5-4 will send them directly into the playoffs or if tiebreakers will be necessary. As for the United States, they are tied with Japan at 4-4 and both teams need to win the final draw or they are eliminated. The Americans have improved their level of play at the right time and will enter their game versus Great Britain coming off victories against Canada and Switzerland. The four countries that are out of the playoff picture at this point are Korea, Norway, Italy and Denmark with both the Koreans and Danes in a position to play spoiler as they face Japan and Canada respectively in the final draw. As it stands, at least one four-loss team will advance to the playoffs in the men’s event, it is simply a question of which team that will be.
The playoff picture in the women’s event is just as murky. As mentioned, the Korean women has secured a playoff spot with their record of 6-1 as they can finish no worse than 6-3. The Swedes are 5-2 and simply need to split their final two games against China and the United States to advance. Both Japan and Great Britain have one game remaining, and the math is simple; if they win their respective games, they will advance to the playoffs. The Japanese will face a Swiss team that has had a disappointing week but remains one of the top-five teams in the world. Great Britain’s final round-robin game is much more fascinating as they will play their long-time friends and rivals, Team Homan of Canada. Prior to the start of the competition, most observers would have thought that the Canada vs Great Britain game would have playoff implications, perhaps to see who would get the top seed in the playoffs. However, a victory by Great Britain would eliminate Canada from playoff contention after a difficult week for the reigning world champions including a 7-5 loss to China on Tuesday which dropped them to 3-4 with two games remaining. The Canadians must win their final two games against Great Britain and the OAR or else they will fail to qualify for the medal round. The United States and China must win their final games, both against Sweden, to avoid elimination. In such a scenario, the Swedes would also drop to 5-4 and could easily find themselves pushed out of the playoffs after dominating the early part of the week.
For our Canadian audience, the best scenario for Team Homan is for them to win their two games and hope that Sweden defeats both China and the United States. If that happens Canada would, at the very least, qualify for a tie-breaker.