Dani Cameranesi watched on TV when the Americans blew a 2-0 lead with less than a minute left before losing the gold medal game to Canada four years ago at the Sochi Olympics.
The Plymouth native and former Gopher uses the word ”devastating” to sum up the 3-2 overtime loss .
Now the Americans are back with another chance at the Olympic gold that has eluded them since they won it all in 1998, when women’s hockey made its debut at Nagano.
And their archrival is in the way again. The showdown with Canada is Thursday, and the Americans know exactly what this moment means.
”Any time you can win gold, I mean it’s game-changing,” U.S. forward Hilary Knight said. ”It’s game-changing for our sport.”
Canada has won 24 consecutive Olympic games and four straight gold medals. Only the United States in basketball has dominated a women’s team sport more thoroughly with a streak of six straight golds.
”Maybe I’m biased, but one of the best rivalries in sports and especially in our game,” said Canadian forward Emily Clark, who played college hockey at Wisconsin. ”So we obviously have a lot on the line, mostly pride. All of us are going to bring our best game.”
The Canadians haven’t lost even a single Olympic game since the 1998 Nagano final – won by the United States. Their streak stands at 24 consecutive games, including a 2-1 win over the United States to cap pool play a week ago. They’ve also won five straight over the Americans including four exhibition victories in December prepping for the Olympics.
Yet the Americans have owned the world championships, winning the last four and eight of the last 10. That has only made the U.S. drought at the Olympics all the more noticeable and making this game even more special.
”It’s been something I’ve been dreaming about since I was little,” Cameranesi said. ”So it means a lot, and to be here with this group of girls and to be with them all year has really been an honor.
She is one of 13 players on the U.S. roster who know the Sochi loss only as history, not something they lived through.
Defenseman Kacey Bellamy, among the 10 Americans who did, thinks the newcomers will be key in keeping the Canadians from a fifth straight gold medal.
”They don’t know the heartbreak,” Bellamy said. ”We’ve tried to explain to them what it felt like, but think it’s great that they haven’t felt that. And they bring us a lot of energy to the team, and we trust every single one of them.”
Two-time U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said the Americans looked at themselves in the mirror after the Sochi loss to learn what they needed to take away from it. She sees Sochi as a long time ago.
”We’re focused on this Olympics,” she said. ”It’s four years later. We got a new team. We got … a lot of youth, excitement, energy, fresh blood and we’re ready to go.”
Under U.S. coach Robb Stauber, the Americans studiously have avoided looking at the big picture of chasing gold. Instead, they’ve focused on the old cliche of one day, one practice, one shift on the ice at a time. They’ve also made sure to enjoy the experience of being at the Winter Games more, too.
Monique Lamoureux-Morando said the Americans tried to act like they had been there before in Sochi. This time around, they’ve made sure to enjoy the games as if this was their first Olympics.
”There’s that balance of knowing when to shut it down, take it in and go see events and enjoy being a spectator at the Olympics,” Lamoureux-Morando said.
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