What seemed so promising for the USA men’s Olympic hockey team came to a disappointing ending. Coming into Friday’s semi-finals game, USA hadn’t lost; the team’s goal scoring numbers were high, they were dictating play against mostly every opponent, and the defense and goaltending was solid at the back. Despite all of that hard work and success, everything came crumbling down to earth Friday afternoon, as Canada blanked the US 1-0 and earned their way back into the gold medal game.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the U.S., as they still have more games left in Sochi when they play Finland for the bronze medal today. Though this is a step backwards from the silver earned in Vancouver four years ago, and it’s a blow to the team’s hopes for avenging 2010’s loss, the opportunity to medal is still a big deal for the U.S. They cannot afford to take the opportunity lightly, and must put up a tougher fight against Finland than they did against Canada.
Friday’s game wasn’t dirty, it wasn’t ugly, and it wasn’t chippy. It was just Canada playing strong, solid hockey. From the time Canada put the only goal in at the beginning of the second period, they just suffocated the USA. You could probably count on one hand the number of real good scoring chances the USA had in that period. That just isn’t going to win you a semi-final, especially against a team as strong as Canada and a goalie as strong as Carey Price.
Despite the offensive drought on Friday, USA’s defense, penalty kill, and goalie Jonathon Quick looked up to the task. Letting up only one goal is usually good enough to win you a hockey game, especially when you only concede two power plays and kill them off. Jonathon Quick stood on his head and kept the USA in it until being pulled at the end for the extra skater. On the lone goal Canada scored, there wasn’t anything Quick could do. Ryan Callahan abandoned his player, Jay Bouwmeester, who was wide open. Bouwmeester got the puck and put a perfect pass onto the stick of Jamie Benn who buried it behind Quick, who was left out of place trying to key in on Bouwmeester.
Finland won’t be an easy matchup for the USA, as they proved how tough they would be by bringing Sweden down to the wire before succumbing 2-1 in the other semi-final game. If the USA can find a way to get good puck movement, quality shots, and most importantly multiple goals, they should be able to come away from Sochi with bronze. Not the color they wanted, of course, but still a prize to take away from these games that will last a lifetime.