GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Whoever said there’s no contact in women’s hockey has never watched a U.S. and Canada game. Whether it’s an exhibition game or part of an international tournament, you better buckle the chin strap and double check your mouth guard because these two teams are going to get after it.
But when this clash of the titans takes place on the Olympic stage, it has all the ferocity of a head-on car crash.
The U.S. and Canada meet for gold for the third straight Olympics
“It’s a pretty physical game and I think all of our games have been that way,” said Monique Lamoureux-Morando. “Our team is really not that physical but it’s definitely not something we’re going to shy away from.”
That may be a bit of an understatement for a team that is ready to run through a brick wall to win the ultimate prize in women’s hockey.
It’s been 20 years since a U.S. team has skated off the ice with Olympic gold hanging around their necks. This team is quite frankly sick of silver and tired of hearing about how they can win World Championships – no small feat, for sure – but can’t take the final step up the Olympic podium.
“I keep hearing about the gold-medal drought,” said U.S. head coach Robb Stauber. “Well, the drought is going to end sometime, so it might as well end now. And I think we have the players to do it.”
This team is the right mix of veteran leadership and youthful enthusiasm, with a healthy dose of speed, skill and grit thrown in for good measure. Since taking up residency outside of Tampa, Fla., they have meshed into a cohesive unit with a single focus.
“Throughout our residency we have trusted the process and took it one game at a time,” said Maddie Rooney, who has started three of the team’s four games in goal. “Now it’s here and we’re ready to go and feeling good.”
After having the gold medal slip through its grasp in Sochi, the returning veterans have vowed to do everything in their power to make sure they never feel that sting again.
“I know that for each player on that team it’s a loss that they’ll never forget,” said defenseman Lee Stecklein, who is competing in her second Olympics. “Nothing can take that away but we want to do everything within our power so that we never have to feel that again and instead feel that joy and experience with our teammates.”
They carried that with them half way around the world as they embarked on the final leg of a long journey. From the drop of the first puck against Finland, they have been workmanlike in their approach to getting to this point. They have outshot their opponents by a better than 2-to-1 margin and have surrendered a miserly three goals in four games.
And despite losing its last five games against Canada, including a 2-1 decision in the preliminary round, a game in which the Americans held a 45-23 shot advantage, this is a confident team that believes it has a date with destiny.
That date, circled on the calendar since the Olympic scheduled was released, happens to be the anniversary of the historic “Miracle on Ice.” This team definitely needs no miracle to write its own history. All it needs is to trust in one another and play up to their full potential for a full 60 minutes. And if they do that, they believe that nobody, not even their biggest rival, can stop them.
|Sun., Feb 11||Finland||Preliminary||W, 3-1||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Tues., Feb 13||Olympic Athletes From Russia||Preliminary||W, 5-0||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Thurs., Feb. 15||Canada||Preliminary||L, 1-2||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Mon., Feb. 19||Finland||Semifinals||W, 5-0||Gangneung Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Thurs., Feb. 22||Canada||Gold-Medal Game||W, 3-2 (SO)||Gangneung Hockey Centre||NBCSN