SOCHI, Russia – Michael Grabner is one of the NHL’s fastest skaters, and that trait alone had many anticipating how he’d play on the larger international ice surface of the Sochi Olympics.
Based on his performance in Austria’s opening loss to Finalnd, the answer is “quite well."
Grabner tallied a hat trick with a goal in the first period and two in the third, outshining his New York Islanders teammate Thomas Vanek as Austria made its first Winter Olympics men’s hockey tournament appearance since 2002.
“I like the big ice, but I think my teammates helped me out a lot. I just tried to get in open space and they made plays,” he said.
Alas, after a tantalizing first 10 minutes, the Finns took over the game and routed Austria, 8-4. But Grabner’s goal 36 seconds into the game, and Thomas Hundertpfund’s tally to make it 2-1 later in the period, gave the Austrians some hope.
“Yeah, we came out good. We played a solid first 10 minutes and then we weathered the storm a little bit. But then they scored two late goals,” said Grabner.
Up next for Grabner and Austria: Team Canada, in a game that Grabner admits isn’t likely going to result in a ‘W’.
“For us, we work as hard as we can for 60 minutes and try to make our country proud,” he said. “Canada is one of the favorites to win this whole thing. We’re going to try to not be too impressed with them, and play some solid hockey.”