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If you’re like I am, you may be suffering from the big-screen withdrawl syndrome with no more Winter Olympics to turn on. Because they were in South Korea, we had the choice of waiting and watching the prime-time replay of the day’s highlights, or staying up ridiculously late and watching those same events live.
When it came to the women’s hockey Gold Medal game, I would have watched it live no matter what time it came on. It was a true highlight of the Games, with tight, tense, even play every shift, all the while UMD goaltender Maddie Rooney had a spectacular game harnessing the explosive Canadian shooters. The magnificent breakaway goal for the 2-2 equalizer by Monique Lamoureux in the third period, the scoreless 20-minute overtime, and then the high-drama shootout, which wound up 2-2 after the mandatory five rounds.
In the sixth, Jocelyn Lamoureux scored one of the neatest goals of these, or any, Games deking to her backhand and then sweeping all the way pipe-to-pipe for an opening and a forehand goal. That left it to Canada sniper Megan Agosta, who had scored one of the two shootout goals on Rooney. She skated in, went 5-hole, and Rooney blocked the shot. Amazingly, the puck’s force made it continue toward the goal, and Rooney reached down and brushed it aside, as if putting final punctuation on the 3-2 Gold Medal victory.
A columnist in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, like many others who probably haven’t watched a dozen women’s hockey games in their lives, wrote a wonderfully colorful piece about how the poor Team USA players had won the 1998 first women’s Olympic hockey tournament, then never again, and they had suffered and waited 20 years to conquer Canada for the Gold Medal. He also wrote that they provided a highlight that nothing else in the Winter Olympics could match.
Wrong. And, wrong again. First, instead of suffering for 20 years, the high-buck U.S. women’s hockey team has been busy. They have something called the World Championships every year, which are a lot like the Olympics without the rings, and without the superficial columnists. Team USA has beaten Canada in the last four World Championships for Gold Medals, and eight of the last 10. There was only this darn Olympic Games interruption to what has become U.S. domination. That domination has been such that the U.S. was the No. 1 seed at the South Korea Olympics.
As for nothing else possibly matching the dramatic highlight of women’s hockey, that very day it happened -- when the John Schuster Rink, representing the Duluth Curling Club, and being called Team USA, rose from a miserable 2-4 round-robin curling competition and suddenly played perfectly in four straight matches, all victories. Two of them were against three-time defending champion and never-beaten Canada, and one of those was in the semifinals. That put Schuster’s rink into the Gold Medal final against heavily favored Sweden.
It was 5-5 in the eighth end, when Schuster, the skip, was supplying the final stone. He artfully slid his stone for a perfect hit that knocked one Swedish stone into another, and taking both of them out of the house. That left only five U.S. stones to count — a five-point crusher that put the U.S. in a 10-5 lead that proved insurmountable. Team USA won 10-7.
I stayed up until 4 a.m. to watch every stone’s throw, and it was every bit as dramatic a highlight of the Games as the women’s hockey Gold Medal. And it was great to see NBC cut to shots of the curling boosters at the Duluth Curling Club, right to the finish.
Bulldogs Face Mavericks
The UMD men’s hockey team swept Western Michigan 8-0 and 6-1 to return home to AMSOIL Arena for their regular-season final series against Nebraska-Omaha. But that sweep was more than just a sweep of a tough NCHC rival. It was the fourth straight UMD victory by a combined 21-1. Hunter Shepard had three straight shutouts before giving up one at Western.
The four-game winning streak also puts UMD in sole possession of third place, behind St. Cloud State, which beat Denver 4-2 Saturday to clinch first place with Denver second. The Bulldogs also clinched the all-important home-ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs, and may well have secured a spot in the 16r-team NCAA tournament if they can keep it rolling.
Meanwhile, the UMD women ended their season with sudden finality against Bemidji State. The Bulldogs led the first game 1-0, but the Beavers came back for a goal by Bailey Wright that offset Sidney Brodt’s opening counter for UMD. Then Emma Terres knocked in a power-play rebound in the third period, and Bemidji State won 2-1.
UMD came back for a 4-1 victory in the second game, breaking from a 1-1 first-period tie with three unanswered goals, and a 4-1 victory despite being outshot 31-19 by Bemidji State.
For Game 3, UMD coach Maura Crowell said: “I like our team when our backs are against the wall. I think we’ll be fresh.”
Instead, the Bulldogs looked out of gas, and Bemidji State was in command from the start, outshooting the Bulldogs 10-4 until Emily Bergland’s goal put the Beavers ahead. It stayed 1-0 until the third period, when Bemidji State attacked the net, and Haley Mack spotted a loose puck outside of a scramble in front of goaltender Jessica Convery. Mack, with her back to the scramble and the net, spun and shot for the left edge. The puck went between the skates of UMD defenseman Jessica Healey and into the left side of the net against the thoroughly screened Convery. With 2:36 remaining, UMD suddenly trailed 2-0, and it became 3-0 when Bailey Wright hit the open net on a 3-on-2 Bemidji State rush with 1:04 to go.
That sends Bemidji State to the WCHA Final Faceoff this weekend at Minneapolis, where the Beavers will take on No. 1 ranked Wisconsin. UMD is finished, and that final game defeat leaves the Bulldogs 15-16-4 for the season, their second below-.500 season in Maura Crowell’s three seasons.