One of the interesting things in a sports-fan-life is putting amazing games into perspective when your team is on the losing side of them. We all cherish epic comebacks, upsets, and wild, back-and-forth games when it's our team winning, or when we're watching as a neutral. But it usually just sucks when your team is on the wrong side of it.
Today, in front of what had to be a record TV and internet audience for women's hockey, the US lost a late 2-0 lead to Canada and fell 3-2 in overtime, handing the Canadians their fourth consecutive gold medal in women's hockey. BU's Marie-Philip Poulin (of all people) scored the game winner in OT on a power play to end the US's run. After winning every World Championship between the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, this will go down as a crushing disappointment for the Americans.
Alex Carpenter, BC '16, notched the Americans' second goal, a third period tally that appeared to set the US on a course for victory. Kelli Stack '11 had an assist on the goal, bringing more smiles to Eagle-land on a festive day in Chestnut Hill. This came on the heels of a great goal by Danvers, Mass.'s Meghan Duggan in the second that put the US on top.
All was pretty much going according to plan... until Canada scored with just over three minutes remaining. Then, the Canucks pulled their goalie, and the US came within freaking INCHES of icing the game:
It ended up hitting the post and rolling over the end line for icing. Canada went on to score to tie the game, and that was that. The Canadian OT winner triggered raucous celebrations all over Canada (and some serious dejection stateside). It was enjoyable to see a women's sporting event matter not because "yay, women's sports" but because it was a great, engrossing game and people genuinely cared about the result.
You're not going to get any "hey they tried really hard" from me - that's not the team's attitude. You could see in the medal ceremony they were pissed to lose. Silver was not acceptable to this team, which expected gold and nothing less.
What I will say is that that was a great game (despite being a heartbreaker) in the same way that Game 6 of last year's Stanley Cup Final was a great game, and the 2010 men's Olympic gold medal game was a great game. Not "great for women, yay" - it was simply great, and incredibly entertaining, dramatic, fast-paced, emotional, and pretty much anything else you can think of that makes a hockey game special.
I'm not going to pretend that NCAA games rise to this caliber. (Just as NCAA men's games don't rise to the caliber of World Juniors or (obviously) the pros.) But the quality of today's gold medal game reflected the incredible improvement and growth in women's hockey at the NCAA level that I've witnessed first-hand as a fan.of the BC women's team for the past eight seasons. It's simply lightyears ahead of where it was even just a few short Olympic cycles ago, and keeps getting better. You had to actively be trying not to enjoy today's game to not think it was incredibly fun to watch.
Anyway - like I said, what was great about this game is that it Mattered to fans in both countries. While nothing can replicate what the Olympics mean, I hope this interest leads to some sort of international tournament during non-Olympic years that gets TV coverage - whether that means airing the IIHF Worlds, or creating a made-for-TV USA-Canada spectacle. And maybe some of this attention trickles down to support for the NCAA teams.
Alex Carpenter's last two hockey seasons have now ended with crushing OT losses - against Minnesota for BC last year, and against Canada today. Hopefully next year's ends with her lifting the NCAA championship trophy for the Eagles.
Also, let's hope the men's hockey team beats Canada tomorrow, and Brooks Orpik goes on to bring a gold medal to the Heights. Because I'm sick of those Canadian hosers already. Eh?