Sochi Olympic Daily Recap: Day -1

1 Comment

One day before the Opening Ceremony, competition got underway at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games.

Thursday’s biggest event was the start of the inaugural Olympic figure skating team competition. And on home ice, Russia had it almost perfect, scoring 19 out of 20 possible points in Day 1 (men’s and pairs’ short program) to take the lead.

Nine of Russia’s 19 points came from Yevgeny Plushenko (pictured), whose runner-up performance certainly felt like a winner. Meanwhile, the U.S. finds itself on the bubble going into Day 2 on Saturday (women’s short program/short dance/pairs’ free skate) after having mixed fortunes.

Another new Olympic discipline, snowboard slopestyle, also made its debut today sans Team USA’s Shaun White and Norway’s Torstein Horgmo (broken collarbone). But it wasn’t an easy day for men’s gold medal favorite Mark McMorris of Canada, who failed to make the final and will have to advance there through the semis. As for the women, two Americans – gold medal threat Jamie Anderson and Karly Shorr – locked up spots in their final.

WATCH: How did Tea USA fare on Day -1?

American freestyle moguls skier Hannah Kearney began her Olympic title defense in style by qualifying first into Saturday’s final. The Vermont native has taken her training to another level going into Sochi, and today, it looked like it paid off. But she’ll still have to watch out for her three main rivals from Canada, the Dufour-Lapointe sisters, who all made it into the final as well.

Training also took place in several sports, including Alpine skiing. Five-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller of the U.S. led the first session for the men, while training was pushed back for the women after multiple competitors complained about a treacherous jump on the course. After some changes, women’s training got going, with American Julia Mancuso logging the third-fastest run at the end of the day.

In hockey, Canada replaced one Tampa Bay Lightning star – the injured Steven Stamkos – with another – the Lightning’s captain, Martin St. Louis. Meanwhile, Slovakia has a big hole to fill after finding out they won’t be able to count on Marian Gaborik (broken collarbone) for the Olympics. Ditto for Sweden, which will be without Henrik Sedin.

We also had a scary moment take place as Nashville Predators and U.S. Olympic hockey general manager David Poile was hit by a puck before the Preds took on the Minnesota Wild today; he was subsequently taken to a local hospital. We’ll keep you posted on his situation.

Team USA keeper Rooney had ‘ice in her veins’ for shootout

Getty Images
Leave a comment

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Maddie Rooney couldn’t stop smiling. She was on top of her game, and it didn’t seem to matter that it was a shootout against the powerhouse Canadians.

The first shootout in an Olympic women’s final.

With a gold medal on the line.

Her coach, Robb Stauber, made sure not to say a word to the 20-year-old goaltender.

“I know she has ice in her veins,” Stauber said.

It sure looked like it. Rooney made 29 saves through overtime, then turned away shots from four Canadians in the six-round shootout, smiling along the way at her jubilant teammates on the bench. The last save came against four-time Olympian Meghan Agosta to clinch a 3-2 victory that ended the Americans’ 20-year gold medal drought .

The goalie who took the year off from college at Minnesota-Duluth had outdueled three-time Olympian Shannon Szabados, who was among those who prefer overtime over a shootout to settle such an important game.

“It’s more individual and less of a team thing,” Szabados said. “It’s a little harder to swallow, but that’s the way it goes.”

The United States had to replace not one, two but all three of their goalies after losing gold in 2014 at Sochi. Rooney, who played her senior year of high school in Andover, Minnesota, on the boys’ varsity team, was the goalie in net for each of the three U.S. victories over Canada in pre-Olympic play. She bounced back from a 2-1 loss last week to Canada and then some on Thursday.

Rooney said she’s been told it’s important to stay calm under pressure. She is sure she’s been nervous at times.

“But pressure is power,” said the goalie whose job title on Wikipedia entry was briefly changed to U.S. “Secretary of Defense.”

Her teammates said they had complete confidence in Rooney, who has only been with the national team since the 2017 world championships. Gigi Marvin, the oldest on the roster at 30, has been rooming with Rooney. She called Rooney unbelievable in net, so strong that they had complete trust in her.

“She’s a gem, talk about poise,” Marvin said. “We all knew she had it. She has been around all year and she just owns it.”

Stauber, a former goalie, knows exactly what a goaltender that never gets rattled means for a team. He didn’t worry about Rooney even after Haley Irwin and captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in the second period to give Canada a 2-1 lead.

“Then she bounces back tall, after a goal or two,” Stauber said. “It sends a lot of confidence. It really is a classic example of a great goaltender.”

Monique Lamoureux-Morando scored on a breakaway late in the third period to force overtime. Rooney stopped all seven shots in the 20-minute overtime, which ended with a Canadian power play. In the shootout, Agosta beat her stick-side and Melodie Daoust scored, too.

That was it. Rooney stopped Natalie Spooner, Poulin and lastly Brianne Jenner and Agosta taking a second turn as Canada’s final shooters.

“Then it all came down to Maddie Rooney, and she had a gold medal-winning performance,” U.S. forward Hilary Knight said.

Amanda Kessel gets gold-medal encouragement from brother Phil

Getty Images
Leave a comment

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) _ The night before she played for the Olympic women’s hockey gold medal, Amanda Kessel looked at her phone and saw text messages from her brother, Phil, offering encouragement.

“Just, ‘Proud of you no, matter what,’ and he believes in me,” Kessel said.

NBCOlympics.com: Gold at last: U.S. women beat rival Canada in epic shootout

Kessel hadn’t yet checked her phone in the minutes after she and the United States beat Canada 3-2 in a shootout for the gold medal in an instant classic between the sport’s two powerhouses.

Phil tweeted he was proud of his sister and all of Team USA.

Click here to read the full story