Thursday, February 21, 2002
Americans' 35-game win streak snapped
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- The balance of power between the
world's two best women's hockey teams has shifted back north of the
Canada won the Olympic gold medal Thursday night, beating the
United States 3-2 to snap an eight-game losing streak against the
Americans and avenge a loss from the inaugural final in Nagano.
"Everyone was expecting us to win. We expected to win," U.S.
defenseman Angela Ruggiero said. "That's why it's so
Hayley Wickenheiser broke a second-period tie and Kim St-Pierre
stopped 25 shots for Canada. It is the first Olympic gold for Team
Canada -- male or female -- since 1952, when the men won for the
sixth time in seven tries.
"It's our sport. It's the medal we want," defenseman Therese
Brisson said. "There's a lot of passion about hockey in Canada,
and it's something that means something to a lot of Canadians."
Wickenheiser, known in her homeland as the female Wayne Gretzky,
was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, and St-Pierre its
Wickenheiser held her 22-month-old son while waiting on the ice
for her gold medal. Both teams wept -- the Canadians locking arms in
the middle of the ice while the Americans stood to the side, more
sullen than the Swedes who took the bronze.
"We were 8-0 against them and everyone said we'd win," said
Lyndsay Wall, a 16-year-old U.S. defenseman at her first Olympics.
"It's a lot of pressure. We felt it toward the end, and couldn't
pull it out."
The North Americans dominated the early games -- as they did in
Nagano and at every international tournament since the first world
champion was crowned in 1990. Neither the United States nor Canada
has ever lost to anyone but each other, and Thursday's matchup was
all-but presumed from the Opening Ceremonies.
The first "U-S-A!" chants started before the game did, and
before either team was on the ice. Several men's hockey players
showed up to support the Americans as well.
But the Canadians had a vocal contingent of their own, including
Gretzky, singer Alanis Morissette and figure skating gold medalists
Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, who spoke to the team the morning
of the game.
Their message came through clear.
"They said, 'It's not about this at all,"' Brisson said,
fingering the gold medal around her neck. '"It's about being your
best on the night that it counts.'
"This is wonderful. Hearing your anthem is wonderful. But even
without this, I'd do it all over again."
Canada invented hockey and won the first four Olympic golds.
Stuck in a 50-year slump, though, Gretzky was called in to restore
the men's program.
But it was Wickenheiser who ended the drought.
Sara DeCosta stopped 26 shots in the game, but defender Sue Merz
-- who went to the ice trying to stop the original shot -- was in the
goalie's way when Wickenheiser knocked the rebound of Danielle
Goyette's shot in to make it 2-1 at 4:10 of the first period.
Canada made it 3-1 with one second left in the second when Jayna
Hefford grabbed a bouncing puck with her glove, placed it in front
of her stick and shot it off DeCosta. The puck landed behind her
and trickled into the net.
The United States pulled within one when Karyn Bye's shot
deflected off a Canadian stick into the net with 3:33 left in the
game. Despite pulling DeCosta after a timeout with 1:14 left, the
Americans couldn't tie it.
The Canadians poured over the boards onto the ice at the final
buzzer, throwing their equipment into the air. Having beaten the
United States in every world championship ever played, the Olympic
gold was the one prize they still sought.
"It feels really good to be able to complete the set," Brisson
Canada scored just 1:45 into the game when Cherie Piper took the
puck around the back of the net and put it off defender A.J.
Mleczko's skate. Caroline Ouellette whacked at puck in front of net
as it squirted past DeCosta to make it 1-0.
It was the first goal allowed by DeCosta at the Olympics and the
first time the Americans trailed.
The Canadians survived two first-period 5-on-3s to carry the
lead into the second before Tara Mounsey's shot from the blue line
was tipped first by Cammi Granato and then ramped off the back of
Katie King's blade into the top of the net.
After Wickenheiser made it 2-1, Bye just missed tying it when
her shot went through the crease and off the far post. Krissy
Wendell raised her arms in celebration, but play went on.
|Krissy Wendell, Angela Ruggiero, Andrea Kilbourne, and Jenny Potter can't believe their win streak ended in the gold-medal game.|