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Underdogs Slovenia,Slovakia defy US, Russia in men's Olympic hockey

Ice Hockey – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Men Preliminary Round Match - U.S. v Slovenia - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea – February 14, 2018 - Slovenia celebrates after defeating Team USA in overtime. REUTERS/David W Cerny

The Olympic Athletes from Russia and United States were shock losers Wednesday as the first Winter Olympic men's hockey tournament in 24 years without players from the National Hockey League (NHL) kicked off in Pyeongchang, with plenty of drama and thrills.

Slovenia came from two goals down in the third period to beat the United States 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday in the opening round of the men’s Olympic hockey tournament.

Captain Jan Mursak scored the equaliser with less than two minutes remaining by netting the winner 38 seconds into over-time for a 3-2 comeback shocker over the Americans.

“Hopefully, we can start looking to the next game and surprise somebody else,” Mursak said after the match.

Despite being on the losing side, Boston University star Jordan Greenway, had reason to celebrate. He not only tapped in a puck that popped loose from a scrum in front of Slovenia goaltender Gasper Kroselj, but he also made his debut as the first African-American player to play on a US Olympic hockey team.

For this year's Olympics however, many top flight players from the National Hockey League have stayed at home.

Money and injury issues have pushed the NHL not to shut down this season for players to compete, so most rosters are stocked from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and other European circuits.

Elsewhere in the tournament, Russia took on Slovakia, and lost.

Russia's talent pool hasn't taken Olympic gold since 1992 but it sizzled early. Vladislav Gavrikov scored on a slapshot 2:54 into the contest and just 74 seconds later Kirill Kaprizov bounced in a deflection.

But Peter Olvecky answered for Slovakia with 3:55 remaining in the first period and Martin Backos equalised 1:50 later, setting the stage for Ceresnak's decider from the top of the slot.

In reverse order, the Slovenians next face the Olympic Athletes from Russia, while the Americans play the Slovaks.