Shootout loss to Slovakia ends Olympic bid for Alaskan Brian Cooper and US men’s hockey

A heart-wrenching 3-2 shootout loss in the quarterfinals ended Anchorage hockey player Brian Cooper’s quest for an Olympic medal Wednesday in Beijing.

Cooper and his U.S. teammates owned a one-goal lead and were 44 seconds away from victory over Slovakia and a berth in the semifinals when their Olympic dreams came crashing down.

Slovakia pulled its goalie and tied the game 2-2 with 43.7 seconds left, sending the game to overtime.

Neither team scored in the 10-minute, 3-on-3 extra period, sending it to a shootout.

Slovakia won the shootout 1-0 when Peter Cehlarik beat U.S. goalie Strauss Mann in the fourth round of shooting. Andy Miele, the American captain and his team’s final shooter, missed his shot to give the game to Slovakia.

That ended the Olympics for Cooper, a 28-year-old defenseman who shed blood for his cause — he absorbed a cut on the chin midway through the third period.

Playing on Tuesday night Alaska time, Cooper was on the ice for one of the U.S. goals and was a constant, steady presence during regulation, playing for 20 minutes, 9 seconds.


He played for Dimond High as a freshman before moving on to junior hockey and eventually college hockey at Nebraska-Omaha. He currently plays professionally in Sweden.

Making the Olympic team was a dream come true, he said in an Instagram post after earning a roster spot in January. “I cannot wait to wear the red, white and blue as we chase an Olympic gold medal!” he wrote.

The United States began its chase by winning its three preliminary games, beating China, Canada and Germany to advance to the quarterfinals. After trailing Slovakia 1-0 early, the U.S. took a 2-1 lead with 11 minutes left in the second period.

The lead almost held up — Cooper and his teammates were less than a minute away from the semifinals, where a win would have sent them to the gold-medal game and a loss would have put them in the bronze-medal game. Instead they were eliminated from the 12-team tournament.

In four games for the Americans, Cooper was plus-6 with one assist and eight shots on goal. He totaled nearly 81 minutes of ice time.

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.