Gold? Glory? U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter just focused on rebounding from 3-2 loss

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SOCHI, Russia – Goalies are quirky. Goalies are in the spotlight. Goalies get the glory and the grief.

Even in the less publicized women’s game.

If an Olympic viewer can name one player on 2010 bronze medalist Finland’s team, it’s fortress Noora Raty. Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados has earned headlines for denying men’s shooters in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference as a five-year player for Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Then there’s U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter.

She is not the biggest star of her team and, though she has played against men, it hasn’t been regular. She is from cozy Cottage Grove, Wis., the type of village that’s asking for substitute crossing guards for the school year on the front of its website.

That’s not to say the average U.S. sports fan is oblivious to Vetter. In fact, looking at her might give one that “I know her from somewhere” feeling.

Vetter is the daughter of an American Family Insurance agent and manager. (A goalie with insurance genes seems fitting.)

American Family Insurance bought ad space for Super Bowl XLVII, which featured a spot with Wisconsin sports stars Russell Wilson and Steve Stricker. Vetter, a former University of Wisconsin standout, was also shown for about three seconds. It wasn’t her first commercial for the company.

MORE: Canada win just start in US rivalry for these Games

In 2010, Vetter played every minute of the final four games of the Olympic hockey tournament. In the most crucial three minutes, she was beaten twice by 18-year-old Canadian Marie Philip-Poulin while Szabados blanked the U.S. as Canada won its third straight gold medal.

After the Olympics, Vetter, a 2009 Wisconsin graduate, could have joined the professional women’s league, called the Canadian Women’s Hockey League with four Canadian teams and a Boston club.

She elected instead to stay in the Madison area and cede game time for more training with a goalie coach, Larry Clemens.

“She’s kind of a hometown person,” Clemens said Wednesday by phone from Sun Prairie, Wis., during the second intermission of a 3-2 loss to Canada in a preliminary game. “She doesn’t leave very much.”

They worked together for three years before Vetter and the national team began living and training together in the lead up to Sochi. The lynchpins of their routine were hand-eye coordination and muscle memory drills.

“It’s something that I think has worked well for me,” said Vetter, an avid golfer. “I have an opportunity to have a job [working with area kids as a trainer after school] and kind of a normal life while I’m training and working hard towards this Olympics.”

Clemens admitted the drawback of not playing on a club team between Vancouver and Sochi.

VIDEO: Controversy clouds Canada win

“The biggest thing is game management,” he said after stepping out of the Sun Prairie Ice Arena for better phone reception. “You can’t recreate that in drills.”

Vetter managed random game action when area ex-college players gathered for games, most of them in their mid-20s to early 30s. But the Olympics were always the goal, even if it wasn’t a spoken one.

“We normally don’t talk about it too much,” Clemens said. “It’s obviously driving her. She doesn’t talk much about what she’s trying to accomplish.”

Vetter became the all-time minutes played leader for U.S. Olympic goalies on Wednesday. In 2012, it looked like that might not have been possible.

Molly Schaus was the No. 1 goalie for the World Championships in Burlington, Vt., two years ago. The U.S. pounced Canada 10-0 in preliminary play and then lost 5-4 in the gold-medal game. Vetter watched from the bench. She returned to the net at the 2013 World Championships, where the U.S. exacted revenge in Ottawa. Schaus was not on the roster because of a personal matter. Vetter and Schaus split the first two games in Sochi before Vetter played the third against Canada.

Canada, meanwhile, sat Szabados in the preliminary game against the U.S., a matchup that meant very little since both nations were assured opposite semifinal berths.

On Wednesday, Vetter was largely credited by players and U.S. coach Katey Stone with keeping her team in the game. She stopped 28 of 31 shots. (perhaps 29 of 31 given a controversial review to uphold one of Canada’s goals that may have crossed the line after a whistle)

The starting goalie for the next game, a Monday semifinal, hasn’t been decided yet.

“We’ve got some time to think about that,” Stone said. “I’m sure if [Vetter] gets another opportunity, she’s a very competitive kid, she’ll show up.”

Clemens believes that if the U.S. does reach the gold-medal game, and Vetter does start again, the result will determine her future with the national team.

Olympic gold would be a great way to complete a career. She could then return to Wisconsin with her sociology degree and myriad opportunities, not just substitute crossing guard.

Vetter wouldn’t commit though.

“Any athlete probably wants to go out on top,” she said, “but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

PyeongChang late night roundup

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Last night belonged to the U.S. women’s hockey team. In the unlikely event that you slept through the game, the USA defeated Canada in a mesmerizing 3-2 shootout to win the USA’s first Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey since 1998.

It was Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson who gave the United States the go-ahead goal in the sixth shootout attempt, and it was Rooney’s block that sealed the victory for the Americans.

That wasn’t the only key event tonight, though. Mikaela Shiffrin got back on the podium in the women’s combined, while Lindsey Vonn posted a DNF in the second run.

Continue reading below to catch up on all the action from PyeongChang.


Hockey: USA win gold, def. CAN 3-2 (SO)

This victory was decades in the making. After narrowly losing to Canada in Olympic finals before, the Americans were finally able to win the gold medal.

The game proved to be a hotly-contested affair and featured the highest quality, and the grittiest, hockey played throughout the course of the tournament. The USA were up 1-0 at the first intermission, before Canada put up two goals of their own in the second. A goal by Monique Lamoureux-Morando brought the U.S. level before they took out the four-time defending gold medalists in the shootout.

Click here for the full recap 

Alpine Skiing: Shiffrin wins silver, Vonn misses out  

Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn had mixed results in the women’s combined. Vonn, two days after claiming bronze in the downhill, posted the best time in the downhill section tonight, while Shiffrin had some work to do after finishing sixth.

Shiffrin, who favors the slalom, sped down the bottom portion of the course to propel herself to a guaranteed medal position. Vonn, who skied the slalom last, saw her quest for gold abruptly end after she hooked one of the gates on the course, resulting in a DNF.

The two favorites of the men’s slalom, Marcel Hirscher and Henrik Kristofferson, both failed to finish their races, which left open a huge opportunity for the field. The man who stepped up was Sweden’s Andre Myhrer, who finished in 1:38.99.

Read the full women’s combined recap here 

Short Track: South Korea stunned in final short track day 

It was a disastrous day for South Korea. Their strategy for this event was to sit back for the majority of the race, and then strike in the last three laps.

Choi Minjeong, a huge favorite to win gold, found herself in fifth place heading into the final two laps and attempted to maneuver her way into the gold medal position. On the final turn, though, Choi tried to move inside the lane but ended up colliding with her compatriot Suk Shim-Hee, leaving the South Korean crowd silent.

Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands won the gold.

In the men’s relay 5000m, the Koreans were expected to win gold as well. There was a lot of contact in the race, but it was an untimely fall from a South Korean skater that ended their dreams – again, leaving the home crowd silent.

Hungary, China, and Canada took home the medals.

Full recap available here 

Biathlon: Belarus wins relay gold on windy evening

A very windy evening made shooting increasingly difficult for the athletes tonight. It reared its ugly head with Germany and Norway, two teams that were supposed to be the front runners for the gold medal. Laura Dahlmeier, who’s been excellent this whole fortnight, didn’t even have a chance to properly anchor Germany because they were already a minute behind before they reached her.

It ended up being Belarus with the gold, powered by six-time Olympic gold medalist Darya Domracheva in the final leg. Sweden and France finished second and third, respectively.

Nordic Combined: Germany powers to gold 

A strong cross-country performance gave Germany another medal in the nordic combined. Austria led entering the event, having finished first in the large hill portion, but Eric Frenzel and company crushed the competition in the 20km relay. The Germans won by a margin of 52 seconds. Norway and Austria came in second and third, respectively.

Full nordic combined recap available here

Miracle re-dub: USA win gold in Olympic hockey

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Feb. 22 has proven to be a day bringing good cheer to American hockey.

Exactly 38 years ago to this day, Herb Brooks guided the United States men’s hockey team to an improbable Olympic gold medal, putting an end to the Soviet Union’s four straight hockey golds.

History does have a way of repeating itself.

Tonight, the U.S. women’s team’s Olympic anguish turned to triumph after they beat arch-rivals Canada 3-2 in a shootout thriller. In doing so, the American women snapped Canada’s streak of four consecutive Olympic gold medals.

It was only four years ago when the Americans suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Canada in Sochi, losing in overtime. They wouldn’t allow themselves to forget it.

It was that memory that pushed Team USA in this tournament, who were destined to take on their bitter northern rivals. Like Herb Brooks’ team, the U.S. women’s team showed tremendous character to fight back in the third period when they were down 1-2, and again when they were down in the shootout.

A beautifully choreographed penalty shot from Jocelyne Lamoreux-Davidson, backed up by 20-year old Maddie Rooney’s game winning save, that sealed Team USA’s historic run.

Four years ago was Canada’s time. Tonight, it’s America’s time.