Columnists, Sports

Burn the Boats: Olympic hockey spotlight

Team USA women’s hockey beat Team Canada in a shootout for Olympic gold. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Winter Olympics. You know, that sporting event that comes around every four years where we pretend to intricately know the proceedings of curling, luging and Nordic skiing combined? Oh yeah, and then there’s the hockey.

Normally, the Olympics offers the best international hockey available, because, well, it’s the Olympics and the best players in the world are there.

This year? Not so much. Well, at least on the men’s side. The women? They were spectacular per usual. The best women’s players in the world were there and they did not disappoint.

It was no a surprise to see Team Canada and Team USA clash in the gold medal game.

Ever since women’s hockey was added to the games back in 1998, the United States and Canada have met in all but one gold medal game, with 2006 being the exception. The games rarely fail to satisfy, but this year was something different.

If you were willing to stay up Wednesday night (the game started at 11:10 p.m. EST), you were delighted to quite possibly the most entertaining game in a long, long time.

With Canada leading 2-1 late in the third period from Boston University product Marie-Philip Poulin’s goal, somehow, former University of North Dakota standout Monique Lamoureux snuck behind the entire Canadian defense and sprung in alone on a breakaway.

Lamoureux rifled home a shot up high and glove side on goaltender Shannon Szabados, whose glove was otherwise sensational over the evening.

The game remained tied through the rest of the third period, into and out of overtime and then commenced in a shootout. A shootout that was, you guessed it, tied after the first five rounds.

Gigi Marvin and Amanda Kessel netted the U.S. shootout strikes, while Meghan Agosta and Mélodie Daoust struck for Canada.

That set the stage for a jaw-dropping deek by Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson on Szabados to give the United States the lead.

U.S. goaltender Maddie Rooney silenced Canada’s rebuttal attempt from Agosta and the gold was back in the United States’ possession for the first time since 1998.

The ebbs and flows of that game were something else. It was an absolutely fabulous hockey game, it’s just a shame it had to go to a shootout. Both the NHL and NCAA play endless overtimes in the playoffs, and the International Ice Hockey Federation and Olympics have to do something about it.

It’s an utter travesty that the game went to a shootout. The Canadians didn’t lose the gold medal game, they lost the gold medal skills competition.

This seriously would have been like the Super Bowl being tied and the kickers run on to the field for a field goal kicking competition to determine who takes home the Lombardi Trophy.

The men’s gold medal game also needed extra time to decide a winner.

It happened in the early Sunday morning, but Germany, yes Germany, had a 3-2 lead over the Olympic Athletes from Russia and a power-play opportunity with 2:11 left, and could not hold on.

Russia’s Nikita Gusev scored a short-handed goal to tie the game. Then on a power play in overtime, Kirill Kaprizov pumped home the golden goal for Russia.

But honesty Germany, what are you doing? You had it. You had gold. It was right there. You had the biggest upset in Olympic play since the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” game and you watched the Russians steal the gold right off your neck.

With 2:11 left and on the power play, you can’t lose that game. Play keep-away for two minutes. You don’t have to score. You don’t even have to shoot. You don’t even let them have the puck, never mind score and force overtime.

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