U.S. women fall to Canada in late collapse

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 3:19 p.m.

SOCHI, Russia — There is no numerical measurement for pain, not in time, not in distance. But it's safe to say the 25 members of the U.S. women's hockey team won't soon recover from their agonizing 3-2 overtime loss to Canada in the Olympic gold medal game Thursday at Bolshoy Ice Dome.

Not from the left post of an empty net they hit from 150 feet while holding a two-goal lead with two minutes to go.

Not from the fluky goal off an American knee that pulled Canada within one, then the tying strike from Marie-Philip Poulin with 55 seconds left.

Not from the bizarre officiating in overtime.

And certainly not from Poulin's finishing dagger on a controversial power play at 8:10.

“Great hockey games come down to inches, bounces of the puck. It's high-risk, high-reward,” U.S. coach Katey Stone said. “There's nothing you can say right now to take the sting away.”

Several American players openly sobbed, some on the rink, more once they left.

“It hurts,” forward Kendall Coyne said. “It's tough to swallow.”

Canada's gold was its fourth in a row in a sport that essentially has only these two teams competing for it, the rest of the world still terribly far behind. That has created a rivalry perhaps unlike any other in the Winter Olympics, one that over the past winter spilled over into two fight-filled exhibitions.

Even in the handshake line after this game, the players moved briskly through. They couldn't be seen speaking or making eye contact.

But once that was done, the Canadians celebrated in a manner befitting a team that had just pulled off one of the great comebacks in the history of the Games.

“We always believed,” forward Hayley Wickenheiser said.

The U.S. built its 2-0 lead on goals by Meghan Duggan in the second period and Alex Carpenter early in the third. That appeared solid until about halfway through that period, when the Americans — whether Stone intended or not — suddenly went passive. Canada's Brianne Jenner scored at 16:34 to make it 2-1.

Stone told her players before the game, “Grab the moment, or it will grab you,” and it became painfully clear which came to pass.

“We certainly put ourselves in a position to win and didn't finish the job,” Stone said afterward. “I'm proud of our players. They left it out there.”

In overtime, the U.S. was awarded a power play for a crosscheck by Canada's Catherine Ward, but it was nullified six seconds later by a slashing penalty on Jocelyne Lamoureux, who chopped once at the goaltender's pads for what she thought might be a rebound.

That turned into a 4-on-3 power play when the Americans' Hilary Knight was issued a cross-checking penalty while chasing down a tired Wickenheiser on a partial break. Replays, though, showed no contact.

“A bogus call,” Knight said.

Stone declined comment on either overtime penalty.

Less than a minute later, Poulin capped a sharp passing play by firing into the vacant side of Jessie Vetter's net.

Julie Chu, a forward who went through all four Olympic losses, said she told the team afterward: “There's nothing to be ashamed of. Be proud of the way we played. Be proud of the team we are.”

The U.S. won gold in the first Olympic women's tournament, 1998 in Nagano, and it'll be at least another four years for that drought.

Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dkovacevic@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.

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