The US Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Team both fell to Canada for the second straight Winter Olympics.
Aside from the fact that both teams fell to Canada, both teams’ gold medal droughts continue. The women’ s team has not won gold since the 1998 games, which were the first to feature women’s ice hockey. The men’s team has not won Olympic gold since the 1980 games in Lake Placid, New York.
And as if losing wasn’t bad enough, they way the men’s team and women’s team lost was extra salt in the wound.
The women’s team led Canada 2-0 with just under four minutes left in the third period when Canada battled back to cut the score to 2-1. After the US narrowly missed sealing the game and the gold medal (and by narrowly I mean an inch to the right), Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin tied the game with less than a minute remaining.
Poulin struck again in overtime when she scored after Canada went on the power play to win the game 3-2 and in the process their third straight gold medal. The US would settle for the silver medal and, while the medals themselves weigh about a pound each, those medals felt like they weighed a ton each for the US women. Many tears of sadness and disbelief were flowing, as were tears of joy for the Canadians.
The next day the American and Canadian men took to the ice in a semi-final match-up. Canada’s Jamie Benn (of the Dallas Stars) re-directed a shot past Jonathan Quick (of the LA Kings) early in the second period, which wound up being the lone goal of the game. Meanwhile, the Americans were unable to put the puck past Carey Price, despite peppering the Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender with 31 shots.
Simply put, in that game on that day, Canada was the better team. The US could not put together quality scoring chances in the offensive zone and a lot of the shots they did put on goal were into the maple leaf on Carey Price’s jersey, making it easy for Price to make the saves. To the Canadians’ credit, they did a great job of shutting down opportunities for the Americans.
The Americans also spent too much time in the defensive zone. Even though Jonathan Quick was spectacular today, he faced 37 shots. As good of a goalie as Quick is, he can only do so much when he doesn’t have much help from his defenders.
As the women continue to try to move on from their disappointment and the men prepare for their bronze medal game tomorrow against Finland, who lost to Sweden in the other semi-final game, American fans are once again left wondering. How does the women’s team blow a 2-0 lead with less than four minutes left? How does the men’s team play so well leading up to the semi-finals and then get outplayed considerably by a far from perfect Canadian team?
At any rate, it will be four more years of bragging rights for the Canadians. Also, as per the rules of a friendly bet between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama, Obama owes Harper two cases of beer (one for the men’s game and another for the women’s game).
As for Team USA, the two disappointing losses means that Sochi 2014 adds to the list of Olympics that have come to a disappointing and early end. This will be something that will continue to eat at them as they work towards the 2018 games. If nothing else, this should serve as motivation to never let this happen again.
One thing is for sure, the four-year wait for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea will be an extremely long one for USA Hockey.
As far as the 2014 US Men’s and Women’s hockey teams go, one can only wonder “What if?”