U.S. women's hockey national team star Brianna Decker is out of the Beijing Olympic tournament after leaving on a stretcher during the Americans' preliminary-round win over Finland on Thursday, according to USA Hockey.
With 10:58 left in the first period, Decker was tied up by Finland defender Ronja Savolainen, with her left leg trapped under her opponent as they fell to the ice. Decker's screams echoed through the empty arena. She attempted to put weight on her leg but was unable to do so. Medical staff, wearing blue surgical coats and face shields, eventually wheeled her off the ice on a stretcher.
"It was sickening," Amanda Kessel said of the yelps of pain coming from Decker, adding, "She's one of the toughest players that I've ever played with or against, so you know she's not staying down on the ice or crying when it's not bad. So it's definitely a gut punch. We want to win for her."
Decker, an assistant captain, was later seen standing on crutches with a walking boot on her left leg as she watched the game. USA Hockey told ESPN that Decker is out for the tournament.
U.S. coach Joel Johnson said he wasn't going to dispute the official's decision not to penalize Savolainen, who appeared to slew-foot Decker from behind, leading to both players falling to the ice.
"They saw it as just people getting tangled up," Johnson said. "I'm biased, and so I saw it a little differently. But I don't think it was a missed call by any means."
Savolainen said she wasn't sure what happened and called it "an unlucky situation" while sharing what she told Decker after the game.
"I just ask how she's feeling, and then I said, 'Sorry.' Like, I didn't want to hurt her," Savolainen said.
The U.S. defeated Finland 5-2.
Decker's injury is a major blow to the United States' chances of winning a second straight women's ice hockey gold medal. The 30-year-old Wisconsin alum has 170 points in 146 games for the U.S. national team. Beijing was her third Olympics; she scored nine points in 10 previous games.
Abby Roque moved up into Decker's spot with Kessel and Alex Carpenter. The talented 24-year-old could help ease the loss of Decker from an offensive perspective, even if the Olympic rookie can't match Decker's veteran savvy.
The U.S. did not bring a taxi squad of reserve players to Beijing in case of coronavirus-related absences or player injuries. According to Alex Azzi of NBC Sports, Olympic team general manager Katie Million indicated there was a "very small" window to bring in alternate players if necessary.
"But obviously that's a worst-case scenario. We're preparing for every scenario, but hopefully we don't have to do that," Million said.
Kendall Coyne Schofield and Carpenter each had two goals against Finland, while Kessel scored once.
"I just told [Decker], 'We got this,'" Coyne Schofield said. "No matter what, she's a big part of this group. ... You saw that in our response after she went down, how much we picked up the game and took control."
For Carpenter, it was a redemptive moment. After winning silver in 2014, she was left off the Team USA roster for the gold-medal-winning run in the 2018 Games. Carpenter said her mindset has improved since that snub.
"Just having fun with the game, having coaches that appreciate me and want to help me get better every day," she said.
Decker's injury was the second to a key player during the tournament's opening day at the Beijing Games. Canadian forward Melodie Daoust did not return after being checked hard into the boards by Sarah Forster in Canada's 12-1 rout of Switzerland.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.