The U.S. women’s hockey team had its chances to win the gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Instead, the Americans will head home from Sochi with silver after yet another heartbreak.
This loss, a devastating 3-2 overtime defeat to rival Canada, might sting a little more for a little while longer, though.
The Americans should have won, and had they finished things the way they’re capable of, they would have. They were just 3:26 from claiming their first Olympic gold medal since 1998. They were just 3:26 from avenging another stinging gold medal loss to the Canadians in 2010. They were 3:26 from setting the table in what could have been a monumental few days for USA Hockey.
And then it all just fell apart.
Team USA certainly played and looked the part of a champion for much of the third period. Alex Carpenter pushed the U.S. lead to 2-0 just 2:01 into the third period. The Americans didn’t seem content with sitting on that lead as they kept up their attack late into the third period, but not all the way through the third period.
Canada finally broke through with 3:36 to play when Brianne Jenner got a shot toward the net that looked like it deflected off Team USA defenseman Kacey Bellamy. That goal gave the Canadians life, and they certainly took full advantage. With under a minute to play, the Americans failed to clear the defensive zone. A centering pass from behind the American net was tipped by U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter and went straight to Marie-Philip Poulin, and she knew what to do.
Poulin buried the chance and sent the game to overtime. In a dizzying few moments, the Americans went from getting ready to stand atop the podium to heading back to the dressing room ahead of overtime. Sure, Team USA had a fresh start as overtime began, but all of the momentum sat with Canada.
The Canadians eventually cashed in on that. Poulin, a senior at Boston University, etched her name into Canadian hockey lore as she added to her game-tying heroics with a game-winning power-play goal 8:10 into the extra frame.
Canada, as it’s done at the last four Olympics, poured onto the ice to celebrate yet another gold medal. The stunned Americans, many of them crying, were left to try and figure out what just happened.
It’s not like the U.S. didn’t suffer some bad luck. Perhaps the lasting image of the entire gold medal game, at least through the eyes of the Americans, will be the near game-clinching empty-net goal. With just over a minute to play, the Americans cleared their zone, and the puck rolled down the ice, seemingly destined to find its way into the back of an empty Canadian net. Instead, the puck just caught the left post and stopped. If that goes in, the Americans almost certainly win the gold. It didn’t, of course, and it’s another silver for the American women.
But it wasn’t all luck. The harsh reality for Team USA is that a big part of this loss stems from its inability to finish the job it came so close to getting done.
Photo via Twitter/@IIHFHockey