Heartbreak for USA

The U.S. women’s ice hockey team had the win, seemingly, up 2-0 with just 3 minutes left …

They were on their way to winning their first gold medal since 1998 …

Everybody thought they had it in the bag. There was no way they could lose …

But Team USA did lose.

It was heartbreaking, even though I am a Canadian, I felt sadness for the American women of the 2014 Sochi Olympic team. It probably helps that I know all too well how it feels to be on the losing side of such a monumental game, but we’ll get back to that later in this post.

The heartbreak, or heart-breaker mind you, came in the form of Marie-Philip Poulin, once again. The two-time Olympian burned Team USA for the second straight Winter Olympiad. As some of you might recall, it was Poulin who scored both goals for Team Canada in the 2-0 victory over as the Americans in the gold medal game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

If this game gives us any indication of how the USA versus Canada men’s semi-final game is going to unfold, then the world is in for a treat.

Thursday’s gold medal game featured as furious an ending to a hockey game as ever recorded. Both goalies were sensational, and the Americans seemed to move into another gear as they bombarded Canada’s goaltender Shannon Szabados. But Szabados stood firm.

After Canada scored  its first goal of the game with 3:26 remaining in the third period, the team seemed renewed and pounded American goalie Jesse Vetter. Poulin’s shot with 55 seconds left tied the game, 2-2, as she beat Vetter.

Overtime in international play reduces the on-ice presence for each team to four skaters and a goalie, which creates a more open game. That led to back and forth action as both teams skated without much friction on the large Olympic-sized sheet. Team USA seemed to grab the first true scoring chance in the first period of overtime, but Szabados kept Team Canada alive for the gold with several fantastic stops on some glorious American scoring opportunities.

Some questionable penalty calls presented 3-on-3 play but matters later turned decisively against the Americans when Team Canada’s forward Hayley Wickenheiser spotted open ice and raced toward the goal on a breakaway only to be stopped when Hilary Knight hauled her down. Knight was penalized on the play, giving Canada a power play. Poulin did her best Sidney Crosby impression and scored the “golden goal” to complete the comeback and lift the Canadians to a 3-2 victory.

It was all over the U.S. team, and the pain of losing a game that they knew they could win carved lines of sorrow in their face. This loss will sting in some way for the rest of their lives. Think about it: the players start on an emotional high, they take the lead, the clock is ticking to its final minutes and boom! It as if life itself has been sucked out of you as it becomes difficult to breath or even move. The sensation is difficult to describe, as it combines disbelief at the result with other emotions. Hatred? Anger? At any rate, the emotion moves swiftly to utter sadness. Each woman on Team USA wants to lace the skates and play again right now, against Canada, a team they had beaten four times during the run up to the Olympic Games.

I’ve been there, and so has Jordan. It wasn’t for Olympic gold but it was nevertheless pretty big. We played Yale University in the NCAA Division I National Championship game last year and lost, 4-0. We had defeated Yale three times by scores of 7-2, 4-1, and 3-0 during the year leading up to the championship. We knew we could win that game, and it hurts to know that the seven-month season came down to just a single game, against a team we knew we could beat, as the record showed.

The hurt is with you every second of every day. The reminders pop up everywhere, including on Twitter where images of championship rings remind us what we didn’t win. Most people think that those images and other things can be ignored. No, they can’t be ignored.

If you’ve never had your heartbroken, re-watch the end of the gold medal game and closely watch some of the American player’s faces, There, you’ll be able to see what it feels like.

@conjones10

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