Penguins' Tom Kuhnhackl savors Germany's Olympic upset of Canada
RALEIGH, N.C. — Tom Kuhnhackl had a permanent smile plastered across his face Friday morning, and it had nothing to do with his progress as he makes a return from a lower-body injury.
Kuhnhackl was beaming because his home country of Germany pulled off a 4-3 upset of Canada to reach the gold-medal game at the Winter Olympics in South Korea earlier in the day.
"I think it's the biggest moment ever," Kuhnhackl said. "I don't think we've ever been in a gold-medal game. I don't think we've ever beat Canada. Obviously, this was a really exciting morning."
Kuhnhackl said a friend on the team, Yasin Ehliz, called him via FaceTime afterward to let him share in the celebration.
"I got to experience the locker room a little bit there, and it was obviously incredible," Kuhnhackl said.
Germany's run in the tournament brought an interesting spread of emotions to the 26-year-old winger. He's obviously been following their progress.
On one hand, because the NHL and IIOC could not reach an agreement on the participation of players, he is missing out on best chance to take part in the Olympic Games.
On the other hand, Germany wouldn't even have been in the tournament if it hadn't been for his efforts. He scored the game-winning goal late in the third period to give his homeland a 3-2 victory over Latvia in September in a do-or-die Olympic qualifier.
"I would have loved to be there, but with all the stuff going on, us not able to go, it's obviously frustrating," Kuhnhackl said. "Now that we're in the gold-medal game, maybe it was a good thing that we didn't go."
Kuhnhackl on Team Germany's victory over Team Canada this morning: 'We've never beat Canada. This was a really exciting morning. Hopefully we can go all the way now. Now anything is possible.'Quote roundup: https://t.co/iRRMYO5fw7 pic.twitter.com/d1wWv4IDmc— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 23, 2018
Kuhnhackl said he did no gloating in a locker room full of Canadians.
"I didn't say anything," Kuhnhackl said. "They weren't too happy about the result."
The Germans will face the Olympic Athletes from Russia in the gold-medal game on Saturday night Eastern time. Kuhnhackl was measured in his prediction, though perhaps that was because assistant coach Sergei Gonchar was walking by as he made it.
"Russia's a really good team," Kuhnhackl said. "They've got (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Ilya) Kovalchuk and all those guys. A really talented group, but now, everything is possible."
As for his own situation, Kuhnhackl practiced with teammates at Friday's morning skate for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury Feb. 6.
"It's nice to be back out there," Kuhnhackl said. "Hopefully another step tomorrow in practice, I feel better every day and we go from there."
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.