The US fell to Canada Thursday in a heartbreaking overtime loss that came after giving up two goals late in the third period. This game will go down in hockey history as one of the greatest games played, but for the US women, they will only be able to look back and think, “What if?”
What if the officiating had been different? What if the US hadn’t missed on the empty netter that would’ve put them up 3-0? What if neither team had taken the kind of needless penalties that they did in the overtime period? At this point, those questions are obviously moot, but they are undoubtedly going to haunt a team that played a terrific game – a terrific tournament – and that should be proud of what they accomplished in Sochi. No one can say that they didn’t try – in the end, in this game, Canada was simply the superior team.
Their grave mistake came when Brianne Jenner got a good bounce and slipped one past goaltender Jessie Vetter with 3:26 left. Add in a game-tying goal from Marie-Philip Poulin with only 55 seconds on the clock, and the US suddenly found themselves in a fight that Canada was determined to win.
The pace of overtime was crazy, both teams battling hard for every inch of the ice. The US got a rare overtime power play opportunity, but it was quickly negated by Jocelyne Lamoureux taking a whack at goaltender Shannon Szabados’ hand with her stick, putting the US down a player as well. A questionable penalty called on Hilary Knight for taking down Hayley Wickenheiser should’ve been a penalty shot, if anything (although replays showed Knight didn’t get much, if any, of Wickenheiser), but instead the officials gave Canada a power play. Poulin returned to the US zone and, in a moment that felt inevitable, scored the overtime game-winner.
Sidenote: Why is it always Poulin?
(Answer: Because she’s one of the best hockey players in the world, and I refuse to limit that statement by gender.)
The faces of Team USA were utterly heartbroken as the team waited to receive their silver medals. The men get to go home to their NHL teams and try for the Stanley Cup, but the women – this is what they work for, this is what they dream about. Who, then, can blame them for feeling devastated by this loss and by their medals being silver rather than gold?
You cannot fault the effort from this team in this tournament. From top to bottom, each woman went out there and put her heart into every second of every game, and inspired thousands of little girls at home watching in the process. To me, that is everything.
Thank you, Team USA. You’ve inspired me too.