SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The work began before the U.S. women’s hockey team reached the medal round, before it arrived in Sochi, before the roster was even selected.
Four years ago, the Americans left the Olympics with a silver medal. And they were determined to be back.
“When that buzzer goes off and it erupted in the arena and we fell short of our goal of being the best in the world, that hurts,” four-time Olympian Julie Chu said after the United States beat Sweden 6-1 yesterday to reach the gold medal game in Sochi. “The last four years, that’s been our goal.”
Captain Meghan Duggan of Danvers, a two-time Olympian, and her U.S. teammates now get the gold medal matchup everyone was expecting with arch rival Canada (a 3-1 winner of Switzerland) Thursday.
“Proud of our team for tonight’s win,” Duggan tweeted from Sochi. “It’s on for Thursday.”
Megan Bozek and Brianna Decker each had a goal and two assists, and the Americans outshot Sweden 70-9. The U.S. has medaled in every Winter Games since women’s hockey was added in 1998, and just once — with a loss to Sweden in the 2006 semifinals — failed to reach the Olympic championship game.
Canada, a three-time defending champion that has played in every Olympic final, will have a chance for a fourth gold. Not since the inaugural tournament in Nagano have the Americans beaten Canada, losing in the championship game in 2002 and 2010 and again in the preliminary round of the Sochi Games on Wednesday.
Alex Carpenter of North Reading and Kacey Bellamy scored in a span of 66 seconds in the first period, and Amanda Kessel gave the Americans a 3-0 lead before Sweden got off its first shot. The U.S. outshot Sweden 29-1 in the first period.