SOCHI -- In the end, there would be no sequel to that memorable day in 2006, no repeat of the Mirakel på Is, when the upstart Swedes defeated the U.S. in the semifinal of the Turin Games. The only miracle at Shayba Arena on Monday afternoon was that goalies Valentina Wallner and Kim Martin-Hasson had any energy left to make it through the mixed zone. In a lopsided 6-1 loss, the two Swedish goalies faced 70 shots (47 for Wallner; 23 for Martin-Hasson) from a well-rested and hungry U.S. women’s squad.
“It’s always tough to lose a semifinal, but they were a much better team today,” Martin-Hasson, the Swedes’ goalie in 2006, said. “They made it hard for us right from the start.”
It took Sweden nearly the entire first period to get a shot, while the U.S. scored three goals on 27 shots in the game’s first 20 minutes. Midway through the second -- 20 shots and two goals later -- Valentina was replaced by Martin-Hasson because, as Swedish assistant coach Leif Boork explained, “[Valentina] had a busy day at work.” In relief, Martin-Hasson made 22 stops, including a one on a penalty shot by Jocelyn Lamoureux, who tried a spin-o-rama move but couldn’t lift the puck over Martin-Hasson’s pads. The 27-year-old netminder surrendered just one goal, to U.S. center Brianna Decker with about three minutes left in the game.
In all honesty, this was by no means a great game. It wasn’t even an okay game. It was like a game between varsity all-stars and the freshman team. By the end of the game, Team USA’s players looked like they were practicing more than competing, cycling the puck down low for most of the third period and letting their defensemen take one-timers over and over again. The U.S. will use every opportunity to practice it can get before Thursday’s gold medal game against Canada, which defeated Switzerland 3-1 on Monday night. Just five days ago, the U.S. women fell 3-2 to their Canadian rivals in a preliminary round game. But as entertaining as that match was, in the scheme of things, it didn’t mean much. The meeting on Thursday, instead, will mean everything.
“It doesn’t matter that we lost to them in the preliminary round,” said U.S. captain Meghan Duggan. “We have played them eight times in six months. We beat them four times before we got to the Olympics, but none of that matters ... We’ll be ready.”
No sooner had the buzzer sounded on the game between the U.S. and Sweden than the chatter about a final between the Americans and the Canadians began -- never mind that Canada wouldn’t defeat Switzerland for another 4 hours. The much-anticipated showdown between the powerhouses of the women's game will not disappoint. This final matchup is one of the few times at the Olympics when the expected will actually be better than the unexpected.