Members of the Gophers women’s hockey team gathered in their team lounge Thursday hoping for a celebration, and for most of the day it looked like almost all of them would leave happy.
They ate, they laughed and they yelled at the giant TV, imploring the U.S. women’s hockey team — which includes five current or former Gophers — to defeat rival Canada in the gold medal game.
In the end, though, they felt the sting that so many felt when Canada scored twice in the final four minutes of regulation and won 3-2 on a power-play goal in overtime. Only they felt it even more than most.
“That makes me so sad,” junior forward Rachael Bona said, as she watched tears streaming down the cheeks of the U.S. players on TV. A few Gophers players, thousands of miles away from the action, shed tears in their team lounge as well.
Others had mixed emotions. After all, the Gophers have four Canadians on their roster — and some of them couldn’t contain themselves even while hoping those in their shoes once fared well.
Senior forward Kelly Terry of Whitby, Ontario, openly cheered when a fortunate deflection gave Canada its first goal of the game. “Sorry,” she said, sheepishly.
“Kelly, who are you rooting for, anyway?” teammates asked her.
“I have no comment,” she replied.
Players spent a lot of the time on their phones, texting other friends about the game and playing Flappy Bird during breaks in the action. Between the second and third periods, they watched a video about the Gophers women’s hockey program.
When the U.S. took a 2-0 lead in the third period, some might have started to think a win was more of a done deal than it really was. With about 5:30 left in regulation and the score still 2-0, players started talking about whether they should do a countdown to a victory.
The first Canada goal got their attention. And the game-tying goal elicited many yelps of disbelief. By overtime, everyone was glued to the TV. Players shouted encouragement at Amanda Kessel and Megan Bozek — Olympians who played for the Gophers just last season, when Minnesota went 41-0 and won the NCAA title.
They howled when a questionable U.S. penalty negated a power play early in overtime. They grew nervous when Canada gained a power play of its own. And then, just like that, it was over.
Many stared blankly at the TV for several moments, allowing the reality to sink in. Then they gathered a certain amount of resolve.
This just means the current Gophers have to win again, they agreed.