Winning as a team never gets old, but sometimes it’s just a bit more satisfying when there are some speed bumps and detours on the road to the gold medal. That was definitely the case for USA Hockey at the World Championships.
Leading up to our opening game against Canada, we went through our usual routine: scout out time with the coaches at 1:15 and a big pregame meal around 1:30. After that, we were on our own until the team bus left for the rink several hours later. Some players take walks during that time, some hang out and others (like me) sneak in as much sleep as possible.
Though we felt well prepared for that first game, we weren’t the sharpest team on the ice that night. We played well enough to have a two-goal lead heading into the third period, but at the 10-minute mark, Canada started playing with more urgency. Instead of taking a deep breath and pushing forward, we began to play back on our heels, allowing Canada to further dictate play. The result was a 3-2 shootout loss.
By the time we got back to the hotel and fell asleep, it was almost 2 a.m. There was a lot of disappointment that night, but we had another game against Finland at 3:30 the next day -- just over 12 hours later. There definitely wasn’t much time to dwell on the loss. We ended up making it by the Finns and used the following practice day to refocus. Our coach, Katey Stone, really gave us a wake up call, saying, “We’ve got to get ourselves going. We’re not working hard enough. We’re just standing there and watching. We’re not doing the little things, and that’s not our style of play.” She was right.
We felt really refreshed after that practice day, and we were able to make some good adjustments in our next game against Switzerland. With a couple more practice days to get ready for our semifinal against Finland, we made sure to spend time together as a team.
Our amazing trainer and massage therapist set up shop in one of the hotel rooms (they had the bed taken out), and while some of us would go there to get treatment, we also hung around for relaxation purposes. Complete with a refrigerator (yes, we eat nonstop), a TV and our favorite off-ice activity (puzzles!), the “training room” had everything we needed. Our team, especially our goalies Jessie Vetter and Brianne McLaughlin, is so puzzle-crazy that the director of USA Hockey actually had a “USA Hockey” puzzle made for us!
We scored all three of our goals against Finland in the last six minutes of the game. It was a nail-biter for sure, but it gave us a chance to get a rematch against Canada. Last year, our scoring margin was huge leading up to the final.
This year? Not so much. The Canadians, on the other hand, were scoring left and right (they beat the Swiss, 13-0). Long story short, we knew we knew we had no room for error.
Pulling out a 3-2 win in the end felt really, really good, especially after our 2012 worlds loss to Canada in overtime. We played a complete, 60-minute game instead of playing for 45 minutes and coasting to the finish line.
We took plenty of pictures on the ice with the World Championship trophy (Did I mention we were playing in the Ottawa Senators’ arena?) and then headed back to the hotel where we had a quick team dinner. At around 11:30, we finally got a chance to head up to a reception where our families were waiting. It was great to enjoy that with our parents and the entire staff. The volunteers for the tournament made it an unforgettable experience for all of us.
Most of the team had to hop on a 4 a.m. bus to the airport, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our victory. As family members started to trickle out, we plugged in an iPod and started singing and dancing. We sounded like Pitch Perfect!
Once we dispersed in the morning, we knew we wouldn’t be together again until our Olympic tryout camp in June, where the atmosphere is guaranteed to be very different. With that in mind, we made sure to enjoy the moment! We certainly know how fortunate we were to have it.