Olympic Hockey Reveiw and Resurging Wild Impress!

Marc Elliott

ST. PAUL… The PyeongChang Olympic Games are complete, and they were absolutely great! I enjoyed a lot of the sledding events, I never saw so much cross-country skiing in my life, and the Curling? Let’s just say it was Golden! I have spent about 80% of my life in the NorthStar State but I must confess I don’t know much more about curling now than I did before these Games began, but man oh man! The Men’s Gold Medal (USA GOLD!) match was human drama in its highest form. Some sports fans look at it as a boring sport to watch, and I can’t say that I haven’t wondered if there was something that might spiff it up a bit, like adding body checking or something, but the strategy and concentration required make it a competition that can only garner respect and admiration. I have plenty of both for Curling as I write this tonight. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the totally awe-inspiring drone created imaging during the opening ceremonies. 

Was there any more inspirational event then the Women’s Gold Medal Hockey game? I don’t think so. The two heavyweights of the Women’s ice hockey world met once again to decide who was the best team on the planet. Early on in this game the nerves within the USA girls were quite evident as they appeared to struggle to establish a flow to their play. Even so, they scored first on a Hilary Knight tally to take the lead. In the 2nd period the Canadians went up 2-1 on goals by Haley Irwin and Captain Marie Philip-Poulin. As the game wore on you could sense the American push building and building and then finally the US got the equalizer on a score from Monique Lamoreux with 6:21 left in the game. From that point on it was a sweat and angst inducing event of epic proportion. Nothing was decided in regulation so off to OT this game went.

From my view the USA team dominated most of the OT frame and when the Canadians got a couple of chances UMD Bulldog netminder and newly crowned USA star Maddie Rooney stood tall between the pipes. I was impressed with her steady stance, relying on superior positioning to get the job done rather then flopping and theatrics. She was tough. With no one scoring in the OT it was time for a shootout. Gigi Marvin scored for the US but that was answered by Canada. Then Canada’s 4th shooter scored which was matched by the USA’s Amanda Kessel. Each club had one more shooter apiece stopped when the most epic Women’s shootout goal ever was put in by the USA’s Jocelyn Lamoreux. Then the most dramatic moment of the entire tournament took place when Rooney calmly stood her ice and stopped Canada’s Meghan Agosta and the Golden celebration was on. I don’t have any words left except what an impressive group of young women athletes. You can’t be a top-level player without being a top-level person too…

Post-game I would offer up to the IOC/IIHF that they need to take a very strong look at improving their officiating for games of this magnitude. It was not good. Consult and review with the NHL if you can, I’m certain they would help. In the Gold Medal game, the number of references to the USA losses at both Sochi and Vancouver from the NBCSN commentators were starting to grate. If I were counting there were easily over 100 mentions of this and it was getting annoying, it’s not good TV. If you were already a fan, you knew the history and the constant reminders of it only made me wonder if they could not come up with any other dialogue to talk about. And finally, I came across an article after the event questioning Coach Robb Staubers coaching ability and taking him to task for a couple of roster cuts from last fall. The writer went on to say that Stauber was totally overmatched by Coach Laura Schuler from the Canadian team and generally cut him to ribbons. You would have thought we had lost. Schuler just might be the premier women’s coach in the world at this time. But don’t tell me for a moment that he can’t coach. He is a committed hockey lifer and with the years he spent in the show, I’m certain he knows the game as well as anybody. I’m almost guessing the scribe was a sister of one of the players cut. Congrats girls, you had this old fart hockey guy in tears the other night…

ON THE MENS SIDE the USA didn’t medal, and I didn’t expect they would. Outside of the loss to the Russians in pool play they were in all of their games and put on some gritty performances. Harvard’s Ryan Donato was the star of the team and in watching Minnesota Wild prospect Jordan Greenway, I didn’t come away with the impression that he is ready to play in the NHL. Lots of fans believe he is though. Not me. In observing the Gold Medal tilt between Russia and unlikely opponent Germany, leading up to that game I had been mostly impressed with the overall level of play. It was better then I had thought it would be. But in watching I realized that if the NHL players had been there the Russians wouldn’t be getting a sniff at a medal and that the Germans got that far on heart, not skill. Their individual puck handling was atrocious at times, their zone entry abilities were poor, and I saw some up-ice rushes featuring basic body positioning mistakes that you never see past Bantams here. But like I said, the heart and grit of the German club was beyond reproach. Unfortunately, they lost in OT 4-3. I am most happy for Pavel Datysuk for his Gold, and unlike the Canadian Women, the Germans were ecstatic to get their Silver Medals. Congrats to all participants… 

THE MINNESOTA WILD swept their 3 game Eastern roadie last week and prevailed in OT versus the SJ Shark last night here. They are surging, and the trade deadline has passed with only Mike Reilly and Chris Stewart being moved out, Reilly via trade and Stewie picked up on waivers. Here we go; THE ATHLETIC; 10th with a 93% chance at a playoff spot. THE SAGARIN; 8th on a 35-27 record, 9-10 vs top ten, 19-16 vs top 16. NHL Rank by percentage of point available; 7th on a .621-win pct., 3rd in the CENTRAL with 77 points, and in a playoff position. The team is 7-3 in their L10… PEACE

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