A day later, the pain still stings for U.S. women
Silver medals around their necks.
Tears in their eyes.
"We didn’t train as hard as we could for second place," U.S. women’s hockey captain Meghan Duggan said on Friday, a day after the Americans lost to Canada 3-2 in overtime in the Olympic gold medal game.
"In our sport, you have to lose your last game in order to win a silver medal," she said. "(But) you’ve got to look at the glass half full, or else I don’t think you can move on. I don’t think sport defines anyone. I think we’re a powerful group of women … we have each other to share in the moment and get through the heartbreak of it, and also celebrate what we’ve done."
An empty-netter that wasn’t. A sloppy player change that left the U.S. short-handed in overtime. A potential penalty shot that turned into a two-minute minor and the eventual game-winning goal.
There were plenty of little things that went wrong for the Americans in their fourth consecutive Olympic loss to their archrivals, but the biggest issue was this: They had a two-goal lead with 3:26 left to play in the third period, and they let Canada back in the game.
"We didn’t finish the job," said coach Katey Stone, who was the Harvard coach when it lost in the NCAA championship game three years in a row. "There really isn’t much to say to take away the sting."
The Americans took a 2-0 lead on goals by Duggan and Alex Carpenter, and Jesse Vetter shut out the three-time defending Olympic champions into the 57th minute of the game. But a freak goal — a misdirected shot that was redirected off defender Kacey Bellamy’s knee — put the Canadians within one.
"Bad puck luck, I guess," Bellamy said. "I didn’t see it at all and I looked back and it was in the net. You just try and keep your head up and bounce back and just go for the next play."
And then came the erstwhile empty-netter.
With Canada goalie Shannon Szabados off for an extra skater, Kelli Stack flipped a clearing pass down the ice. As it slowly skidded toward the empty net, Stack realized that it was slightly off the mark.
It hit the post and came to rest harmlessly in the crease.
"Honestly, it wasn’t meant to be," Stack said. "If it would have been an inch to the right, it would have went in, and we would have won the gold medal. When pucks don’t bounce your way, you’ve just got to know that it wasn’t meant to be, and we live to fight another day."
About 30 seconds later, Marie-Philip Poulin scored to tie the game. The Americans picked up a rare power play in overtime, but it lasted only six seconds before the referee called Jocelyne Lamoureux for slashing for a single swipe at the puck after Szabados had saved it.
Seventy-six seconds later, Hilary Knight was called for cross-checking when she chased down Hayley Wickenheiser from behind and sent her sprawling. Knight said "it was a bogus call," but Wickenheiser said on Friday she was clipped — which should have resulted in a penalty shot.
Instead, the Canadians had a 5-on-3 advantage, and they converted on a pass from Laura Fortino to Poulin, a former Boston University star who also had two goals in the gold medal game in Vancouver.
"Right away when that goal went in, I just collapsed. You’re never, ever ready for that moment," said U.S. forward Amanda Kessel, who won the NCAA championship at Minnesota last season after a season in which the Gophers went 41-0-0. "It was by far the most devastating loss for me, and I think most of my teammates. You felt like you had the gold in your hands there."
At a news conference the day after the loss, the Americans wore their silver medals and said how proud they were to represent their country. But they showed little satisfaction in their new prize, and their faces were worn either from recent tears or because they hadn’t slept since the late-night loss on Thursday.
"We believed we could win," said forward Julie Chu, a four-time Olympian who now has three silver medals and a bronze. "We never lost the belief that we would win a gold medal. And when that final puck goes in, that’s just the moment where it dawns (on us), `OK, it didn’t come true.’
"But the whole piece of it, that defines us," she said. "Not just this one game."