DAY #13 SPORTS FOCUS: Tough day at the office for U.S. athletes as women’s hockey team falters to Canada and Shiffrin stumbles in combined slalom

Canada knocked off rival U.S. for the fourth time in six Olympic gold medal contests with a hard-fought 3-2 victory in Beijing. Three-time Olympic medalist Mikaela Shiffrin skied off course early going for the third time at these Games, in the afternoon slalom portion of the Alpine combined

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2022 Beijing Olympics - Victory Ceremony - Ice Hockey - Women's Gold Medal - Wukesong Sports Centre, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022. Jesse Compher of the United States, Jincy Dunne of the United States, Hannah Brandt of the United States and Hilary Knight of the United States with their medals during the ceremony. REUTERS/David W Cerny
2022 Beijing Olympics - Victory Ceremony - Ice Hockey - Women's Gold Medal - Wukesong Sports Centre, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022. Jesse Compher of the United States, Jincy Dunne of the United States, Hannah Brandt of the United States and Hilary Knight of the United States with their medals during the ceremony. REUTERS/David W Cerny

It was a heartbreaking 15 minutes for Team USA on Day 13 of the Olympic Winter Games.

In that short timeframe, the defending women’s defending Olympic hockey champions saw their hopes quickly fade as the game clock struck zero with the final score 3-2. Canada got its revenge from the U.S., making amends on it’s own heartbreaking defeat in PyeongChang 2018, a tense and dramatic shoot-out loss.

Fifteen minutes prior to the U.S. hockey defeat, Mikaela Shiffrin encountered unexpected early problems yet again, skiing off course for the third time in three technical races, as her Alpine combined medal hopes vanished into the Chinese air.

Back to hockey – Amanda Kessel tallied a late goal for the U.S. on a 6-on-4 with 12.4 seconds remaining in the third period, but it was too little, too late.

2022 Beijing Olympics - Ice Hockey - Women's Gold Medal Game - Canada v United States - Wukesong Sports Centre, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022. Amanda Kessel of the United States and with teammates celebrate their second goal scored by Amanda Kessel of the United States. REUTERS/David W Cerny
2022 Beijing Olympics - Ice Hockey - Women's Gold Medal Game - Canada v United States - Wukesong Sports Centre, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022. Amanda Kessel of the United States and with teammates celebrate their second goal scored by Amanda Kessel of the United States. REUTERS/David W Cerny

It was a fierce and heated battle, as always when the two North American rivals clash, but it was Team Canada captain Marie-Philip Poulin notching two goals and an assist, as goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens superbly denied 38 of the U.S. 40 shots-on-goal, that ultimately made the difference. Canada secured its fifth women’s Olympic ice hockey gold.

It’s a great feeling - it was one hell of an effort.,” said Poulin. “This is redemption.”

2022 Beijing Olympics - Victory Ceremony - Ice Hockey - Women's Gold Medal - Wukesong Sports Centre, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022. Marie-Philip Poulin of Canada and teammates pose for a picture with their gold medal during the medal ceremony. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
2022 Beijing Olympics - Victory Ceremony - Ice Hockey - Women's Gold Medal - Wukesong Sports Centre, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022. Marie-Philip Poulin of Canada and teammates pose for a picture with their gold medal during the medal ceremony. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Thirty-two-year-old U.S. veteran Hilary Knight - playing in her record-breaking 22nd Olympic game and fourth Olympics - scored a huge goal, finding the back of the net off her own rebound, to cut Canada’s lead to 3-2 with 3:21 left in the second period. It reinvigorated the team, but that was the closest the U.S. would come.

“I really like our team and we love each other and are willing to go through a wall for each other,” said the U.S. four-time Olympian. “At the end of the day, I am proud of our effort.”

2022 Beijing Olympics - Ice Hockey - Women's Gold Medal Game - Canada v United States - Wukesong Sports Centre, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022. Hilary Knight of the United States scores their first goal. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
2022 Beijing Olympics - Ice Hockey - Women's Gold Medal Game - Canada v United States - Wukesong Sports Centre, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022. Hilary Knight of the United States scores their first goal. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. forward Alex Carpenter had a few ‘Grade A’ scoring chances in the third period, including clanking one off the post, but couldn’t put the puck past Desbiens.

“I wouldn’t say frustrating - I don’t think we really get too frustrated,” Carpenter said of the loss. “We had a couple of breakdowns here and there, but, you know, things that we can fix, so we’re happy with how it’s played today.”

U.S. goaltender Alex Cavallini was average in between the pipes, stopping 18 of Canada’s 21 shots, as Maddie Rooney, the star of the PyeongChang 2018 team, that won gold in a tense shoot-out, hasn’t seen action since the U.S. preliminary round 4-1 loss to Canada on Feb. 8th. Perhaps a questionable decision by U.S. head coach Joel Johnson.

The North American not always friendly neighbors, as evidenced by a third period pushing and shoving match after U.S. forward Jesse Compher crashed into Canadian goalie Desbiens, have now battled in six gold medal contests, with Canada winning four and the U.S. two. The American gold medals came four years ago in PyeongChang and at the debut of women’s hockey in Nagano 1998.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach attended the afternoon affair, mingling with and congratulating the Finnish bronze medalists in between periods.

For the U.S., thirteen of the 23 silver medal-winning players were on the roster for the inspiring 2018 Olympic triumph. The team lost a big chunk of its core from its eight world championship gold medals in nine years and the 2018 gold medal squad, with perhaps a few more out the door soon. It was most likely Knight’s final Olympics.

Ice Hockey - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Women's Gold Medal Final Match - Canada v USA - Gangneung Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea - February 22, 2018 - Hilary Knight of the U.S. celebrates her goal. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Ice Hockey - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Women's Gold Medal Final Match - Canada v USA - Gangneung Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea - February 22, 2018 - Hilary Knight of the U.S. celebrates her goal. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The U.S. program must focus on developing its next wave of players and hopefully, will get another shot at those troubling Canadians, come Milano-Cortina 2026.

Shiffrin: “It’s just a little bit mind-boggling

2022 Beijing Olympics - Alpine Skiing - Women's Alpine Combined Slalom - National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022.  Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States falls during her run. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
2022 Beijing Olympics - Alpine Skiing - Women's Alpine Combined Slalom - National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022. Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States falls during her run. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Mikaela Shiffrin lost control of her edges, went wide on a left-footed turn, fell to her side and crashed out of the combined slalom event on Thursday afternoon in Yaniqing.

Shiffrin, who won a silver medal in the Alpine combined four years ago and entered the start of Thursday’s race as the 2021 world champion, laid down a solid downhill run in the morning session of the two-discipline event, placing her fifth, O.56 seconds off the lead, with her usual specialty still to come.

But similar to her fate in the slalom proper and giant slalom last week, it all ended abruptly, she was off course faster than a Chinese food delivery.

“Well, it’s a good question,” Shiffrin responded, simply asked what happened?

“I don’t really understand what is not working out and especially today and even in the slalom and GS race, I felt like maybe I had too high intensity.

“Today, I was much more relaxed – hey it’s slalom and I know how to do slalom, and I will take the chance to get into my tempo and then I’ll start pushing each gate building from there,” Shiffrin said, in the finish area after the DNF.

2022 Beijing Olympics - Alpine Skiing - Women's Alpine Combined Slalom - National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022.  Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States reacts after falling during her run. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
2022 Beijing Olympics - Alpine Skiing - Women's Alpine Combined Slalom - National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022. Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States reacts after falling during her run. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

“I didn’t want to hold back just to make it to the finish, and I wasn’t, but I also wasn’t going 110-percent, I was just skiing and it still didn’t work out.

“I don’t have a really good explanation for it, so it’s just a little bit of a mind-boggling event I guess.

“Anyway, I didn’t make it to the finish again and 60% of my DNF rate for my entire career has happened at this Olympic Games,” said the 26-year-old skier.

Five individual events and unfortunately no medals for the American ski racing star. The Colorado skier click into her skis one more time in Beijing, as she will join the four-person U.S. squad, with one final medal opportunity, in the closing mixed team parallel event this weekend.

Switzerland’s unprecedented Alpine skiing gold medal haul

2022 Beijing Olympics - Victory Ceremony - Alpine Skiing - Women's Alpine Combined - National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China- February 17, 2022. Gold medallist Michelle Gisin of Switzerland celebrates with silver medallist Wendy Holdener of Switzerland. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
2022 Beijing Olympics - Victory Ceremony - Alpine Skiing - Women's Alpine Combined - National Alpine Skiing Centre, Yanqing district, Beijing, China- February 17, 2022. Gold medallist Michelle Gisin of Switzerland celebrates with silver medallist Wendy Holdener of Switzerland. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Michelle Gisin took top honors winning the Alpine combined for a second consecutive Olympic Games, while her teammate Wendy Holdener skied to bronze, the two-discipline event coming to its climax with light snow falling in Yanqing.

Gisin joins teammates Lara Gut-Behrami, Corinne Suter, Beat Feuz and Marco Odermatt as skiing gold medalists. The dominant Swiss performance at Beijing 2022 marks the first time in Olympic ski racing history that one nation has won five individual gold medals. In fact, the five champions succeed the previous best showing of three gold medalists from one country at a single Games.

“We had an amazing world championships last year with so many medals - every athlete performed at their best, and to repeat that at the Olympics, at the biggest stage of the world, to win three out of five races, and get seven out of 15 medals on the female side, plus the victories of Feuz and Odermatt is absolutely insane,” Gisin said after her gold medal triumph.

“The whole country’s celebrating - really hope they are celebrating.”

Fondue party for all!

Switzerland still has one more race – the mixed team parallel event this weekend – a chance to claim a staggering sixth gold medal in 11 events at Beijing 2022. The Swiss are the defending Olympic champions. Beware Austria!

Follow Brian on Twitter - @Brian_Pinelli

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