Despite strong starts to their respective tournaments, both the men's and women's hockey teams struggled late for Team USA. Canada proved to be each team's toughest competitor.
The women lost to Canada in the gold-medal game, and their loss was particularly disappointing given their effort in the contest. Throw in how easy it was for them to get there, and it's safe to say that the fans were expecting a little more from the top players on the team.
The men lost to Canada in the semifinals and then to Finland in the bronze-medal game, and both performances were subpar. They failed to score a goal in either game, losing 1-0 to Canada and 5-0 to Finland.
Each squad featured strong performances from individual players, but it's the players who didn't show up to Sochi that impacted the outcome of both teams.
Arguably the most disappointing player for either team, Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane was not the leader on offense that Team USA expected he'd be. Per Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, Kane described how it felt to perform so poorly:
No excuses. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough to help the team win a medal. Obviously, I was expected to do a lot more. When you come over here and put up zero goals and four assists in six games, that’s not the numbers you want to see. Definitely disappointing.
Kane did not put up great numbers in the tournament, though it was hard to fault his hustle and will to win. One of his assists happened to be the one that set up Joe Pavelski in the exciting game against Russia, and he did total 19 shots on goal in six games.
Kane was out there working hard every game—he just didn't have the numbers to show for it.
There's still plenty of international hockey left in the 25-year-old, and he'll more than likely find himself in South Korea in 2018 for the next installment of the Winter Olympics. Of course, he'll be hoping to leave there with better results and a gold medal.
Prior to Team USA's 5-2 win over the Czech Republic, Minnesota Wild star Zach Parise had been held scoreless in the tournament. He scored his first of the tournament on a second-period power play against the Czechs, but that proved to be the only scoring he would do—seeing as the next two contests were shutouts against Canada and Finland.
As the captain of Team USA, Parise was given high expectations for Sochi. He was the third overall scorer in the 2010 Vancouver Games, and that was the same type of play that was needed from him in Sochi.
Parise has to shoulder some of the blame as the team's captain. He finished the tournament with just one point. His team was expected to medal, but the loss to Canada was so deflating that it came out flat in the following contest against Finland. That eliminated it from medalling.
Parise played hard and played tough, but he didn't have the results to show for it. Team USA needed him in the latter contests of the tournament, and he didn't really show up.
Jessie Vetter had some strong games and some poor games in net for Team USA, but her performance in the final game against Canada was disappointing. With no NHL to turn back to, that last performance is unfortunately what she'll be remembered for until the 2018 Games.
Canada was held scoreless for 56 minutes, 34 seconds, at which point Team USA held a 2-0 lead and appeared to be on its way to a gold medal.
A shot ricocheted past Vetter for a score, though, and that's when the floodgates opened. Ed Willes of Canada.com breaks down the following goal, Vetter's first big mistake of the game:
With [Shannon] Szabados still out of the net, Vetter made her first mistake of the game, bobbling a centring pass/shot by Canada’s Rebecca Johnston which Poulin pounced on like a cobra and snapped in for the tying goal. Canada, which hadn’t scored a goal in almost 57 minutes, now had two in two and a half minutes.
Vetter was then beaten on a third goal later in overtime—the goal that gave Canada the 3-2 win.
Hilary Knight was largely successful in the tournament, though the overtime penalty she was whistled for against Canada was a major reason for her team's loss. She, however, thought it was a bad goal, according to Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports: “I didn’t touch her. She fell. It was a bogus call. But it doesn’t rely on one call. We had plenty of opportunity,” said Knight.
Even though she tallied an assist in the game, she had nothing to show for herself after firing six shots on goal. Only a few of her shots were quality attempts, while others appeared as if she were pressing.
The 24-year-old from Palo Alto, California was a key reason why this team made it so far in the tournament. She led a potent offense through several strong international opponents. She cracked under pressure, however, in the final game of the tournament.
She'll be ready for the 2018 Games in South Korea. Her entire tournament wasn't disappointing, but the end result was.
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