SOCHI, Russia - Years of hard work and dedication came down to one rolling puck headed toward one empty net. One inch to the right and the U.S. women's Olympic team would win a gold medal.
The puck veered left, bounced off the post and for the rest of the game went in Canada's favor until Marie Philip-Pouline's overtime goal sealed it.
"When those types of things happen in the game of hockey you begin to wonder if it's your night," head coach Katey Stone said.
Kelli Stack's shot from her own zone on the empty net would have given the U.S. a 3-1 lead and all but assured the Americans of their first Olympic gold medal since 1998.
"From my angle I knew that it was going to hit the post right away but at the time we were still up a goal so I didn’t even think a thing of it. I was thinking ‘oh, that would be nice if that had gone in. An inch to the right," she said.
There were other moments where the puck luck fell against the U.S. Defenseman Gigi Marvin hit Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados in the mask in overtime and Anne Schleper nearly scored as well in the extra frame.
"Great hockey games come down to inches, bounces of the puck," Stone said. "That's hockey."
If the line is thin between good luck and bad, it's even thinner between penalty and no penalty in high speed, elite hockey. The U.S. had two penalties in overtime that walked such a line.
With a 4-on-3 power play, Jocelyne Lamoureux swatted at Szabados after she made a save and was called for slashing. It's the sort of play that is not uncommon in competitive hockey, but is one that walks the fine line between legal and penalty.
Then seconds later Hilary Knight was called for cross checking Haley Wickenheiser on a breakaway that led to a Canadian power play and ultimately the game-winning goal.
Stone said the pursuit of hockey glory comes with all players and coaches knowing that the fine line between winning and losing is a dangerous path.
"You understand that it's high risk and high reward and for anyone to win a gold medal you have to put some risk into it," she said.
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