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Heartbroken U.S. hockey not blaming refs after loss

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SOCHI, Russia – If anyone had a right to feel robbed, it was Julie Chu. By the referee. By the post. By the kind of dumb hockey luck that so often decides games. For American fans who thought they were upset by what happened in the women’s gold-medal game, consider Chu’s journey to that point.

Three times the 31-year-old had been to the Olympics before these Games, and three times she’d failed to win gold, coming away with two silvers and a bronze instead. Thursday evening at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, with her United States team leading 2-0, with the clock winding down, with Canada appearing out of answers, surely her fourth, and likely final, try would be the one.

VIDEO: Watch the shot that hit the post

It wasn’t. Canada scored twice before the end of regulation, then won its fourth straight gold medal on a controversial power play in overtime.

“I think it’s hard for all of us,” said Chu. “Our mentality, and my mentality, has been about the last four years. This team, and this process that we’ve been through. We wanted to win a gold medal today.”

How did it come so close to happening, only for everything to go so wrong in the end?

“We battled hard,” she said. “We put a lot of pressure on them. We had some good chances. Even a little puck off the post.”

VIDEO: How did the game get to OT?

Chu was, of course, referring to the post teammate Kelli Stack hit late in the game with the Canadian net empty. At the time, the U.S. was up 2-1. Just a few inches to the right and she would’ve had her gold medal.

As for the officiating? Like, say, the questionable crosschecking call on Hilary Knight in overtime that led to the game-winner?

“I think it was pretty even both ways,” Chu said. “Whatever calls were called or weren’t called, it went both ways. There’s not much we can say.”

Instead, she preferred to talk about her teammates, and how proud she was of them.

As did captain Meghan Duggan.

VIDEO: Meghan Duggan explains where it went wrong for U.S.

“I’m proud to be American today,” said Duggan. “I’m proud of the girls, and the game that we put forth. We’ll appreciate these silver medals and head back home and join our families.”

What did she think of the officiating?

“You can’t control it,” she said. “It’s one of those things that you have absolutely no control over. You can talk to the refs, why they made certain calls, why things happened.

“But at the end of the day, you’ve just got to play. We took a lot of penalties, they got a lot of penalties called on them. I’m never going to blame a game on officiating. It comes down to putting the puck in the net, and they got one more than us tonight.”

If only Twitter were so gracious.

Meanwhile, America’s heartbreak was Canada’s joy.

“I think I’m in shock, really, that it worked out in our favor,” said Hayley Wickenheiser, now a four-time gold medalist. “We battled so hard, and we never gave up, and we just put everything on the line to get the job done.  We had a lot of composure and experience to pull through in the end when we needed to, and to stay in the moment.”

Despite being the three-time defending gold medalists, Canada did not come into the Olympics looking like it. The team’s coach, Dan Church, had curiously resigned in December, replaced by Kevin Dineen, recently fired by the Florida Panthers and with no experience in the women’s game. Then, in January, Dineen made the eyebrow-raising decision to give the captaincy to Caroline Ouellette, taking it away from Wickenheiser, who was not pleased.

Of her four gold medals, Wickenheiser called this one the hardest to win.

“If people knew what this team had gone through, they would probably make a movie,” she said. “It’s been an unbelievable year.”

Capped off by an unbelievable game.

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Yuzuru Hanyu wins record fourth straight Grand Prix Final; Nathan Chen on podium

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu became the first singles skater to win four straight Grand Prix Finals, while 17-year-old Nathan Chen is the second-youngest men’s medalist in the event’s 22-year history.

The Olympic champion Hanyu held on to win despite scoring 10 points fewer than Chen in the free skate in Marseille, France, on Saturday.

Chen finished second, 11.05 points behind, rising from fifth of six skaters after Thursday’s short program.

“It’s kind of a shock,” said Chen, the U.S. bronze medalist who is in his first season as a senior skater. “I wasn’t really expecting to be able to come out with a medal here.”

Chen landed four quadruple jumps in his free skate with no falls after erring on both of his quads in the short program.

Hanyu fell once and singled a Lutz, scoring 32.11 points fewer than his record free skate last year.

“I feel total disappointment with my long program,” Hanyu said to open the post-event press conference. “But the result is good.”

Chen became the first U.S. men’s medalist at the Grand Prix Final since Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir earned gold and bronze in 2009.

Only Russian Yevgeny Plushenko won a men’s Grand Prix Final medal at a younger age, a bronze at 16 in the 1998-99 season.

U.S. champion Adam Rippon fell three times Saturday and finished last of six skaters.

Chen, the darling attraction of the 2010 U.S. Championships at age 10, is now the clear favorite for the U.S. Championships in January. Chen can become the youngest U.S. champion since Scott Allen in 1966.

“There’s always room to improve in terms of artistry and stuff like that,” said Chen, who has been working with noted ice dance coach and choreographer Marina Zoueva this fall. “I guess that will be the biggest goal for me next.”

NBCSN will air Grand Prix Final coverage Sunday from 8:30-11 p.m. ET.

MORE: Javier Fernandez builds toward last Olympic chance

Men’s Results
GOLD: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 293.90
SILVER: Nathan Chen (USA) — 282.85
BRONZE: Shoma Uno (JPN) — 282.51
4. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 268.77
5. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 266.75
6. Adam Rippon (USA) — 233.10

Yevgenia Medvedeva repeats as Grand Prix Final winner, misses Yuna Kim record

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Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva extended one of the most dominant runs in recent history, repeating as Grand Prix Final champion on Saturday.

Medvedeva recovered from stepping out of her opening jump — a shocking error for her — to total 227.66 points, the second-highest score under an 11-year-old judging system. The 17-year-old just missed Yuna Kim‘s record 228.56 from the 2010 Olympics.

Medvedeva, who last lost in November 2015, won by 9.33 points over Japan’s Satoko Miyahara in Marseille, France. Russian Anna Pogorilaya was third, followed by Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

Miyahara, Pogorilaya and Osmond all tallied personal-best free skates.

Medvedeva made that early mistake skating to music from “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” a 2011 film relating to the 9/11 attacks. It’s a controversial program choice that includes, at one point, the voice of George W. Bush declaring that two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center.

“I’m happy, but I’m so sad about my mistake on my first jump,” Medvedeva said.

Nobody has finished within five points of Medvedeva during this winning streak, which included the 2016 European and World Championships and this perfect Grand Prix season. She’s seeking the first perfect season, including Grand Prix Final and world titles, since countrywoman Irina Slutskaya in 2004-05.

No U.S. woman qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2008.

NBCSN will air Grand Prix Final coverage Sunday from 8:30-11 p.m. ET.

MORE: Javier Fernandez builds toward last Olympic chance

Women’s Results
GOLD: Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 227.66
SILVER: Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 218.33
BRONZE: Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 216.47
4. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 212.45
5. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 198.79
6. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 188.81