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VANCOUVER — Kerry Weiland smiled as an Olympic silver medal was placed around her neck, then waved to an appreciative crowd.
A few minutes later, the Palmer native joined her U.S. women’s hockey teammates in locking arms as the Canadian national anthem was sung for the gold medal-winning team.
“We enjoyed the journey,” Weiland said to several reporters after Canada’s 2-0 win Thursday at a raucous Canada Hockey Place. “This is a special team regardless of what color (medal) we have around our neck. I’m proud to be in the U.S. jersey and represent the U.S.”
The Americans could not overcome two first-period goals from 18-year-old Marie-Philip Poulin and 28 saves by Shannon Szabados.
“They blocked a lot of shots. They sacrificed for the puck. They kept the puck out of the net,” said Weiland, a first-time Olympian. “You can’t win a gold medal without scoring a goal.”
The Americans claimed the inaugural women’s hockey Olympic gold over Canada in 1998. They were hoping to even the score following Canada’s victories at the 2002 and 2006 games (over the U.S. and Sweden, respectively).
Their disappointment afterward was palpable.
“It hurts. What’s disappointing is everyone in the locker room feels we have more than we gave tonight,” Weiland said.
Nevertheless, Weiland will treasure the medal. The former University of Wisconsin All-American has been on the U.S. national team most of the time since 2002 but was cut from the 2006 Olympic team. She does, however, own two silver medals and two golds from World Championship events.
“We trained really hard for a gold medal, but it’s a beautiful thing to have a silver as well. A lot of people would want to be in our shoes and we understand that,” she said.
Weiland, who was guaranteed hardware after the U.S.’ 9-1 semifinal win over Sweden on Monday, became the fifth Alaskan to receive a Winter Olympic medal during an emotional awards ceremony immediately after the game.
She joins Pam Dreyer of Eagle River (2006 bronze in women’s hockey), Rosey Fletcher of Girdwood (2006 bronze in snowboard parallel giant slalom), Tommy Moe of Girdwood (1994 gold in Alpine skiing downhill and silver in Super-G) and Hilary Lindh (1992 silver in downhill).
Scoring first would have gone a long way to contain the flag-waving, wildly cheering home crowd of nearly 17,000, but the 23-year Szabados stood tall. First she shut down the Americans during a 40-second, 5-on-3 power play, then she robbed Caitlin Cahow with a glove save of a backdoor cut to the net.
“I’m sure that it only gave a young goalie confidence,” Weiland said of the United States not converting a 5-on-3 in each of the first two periods.
Poulin, a fourth-line forward who saw less ice time than most of her teammates, gave Canada all the offense it would need with 6:05 left in the first period. The crowd went ballistic after she took a pass from Jennifer Botterill and buried a one-timer from the left circle past U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter.
Three minutes later the unheralded Poulin, who had scored three of Canada’s 46 goals entering the game, gave her team a two-goal cushion. She put in a rebound three seconds after the U.S. drew a hooking penalty to nullify a power play they were on.
“We knew that any of their forwards have the ability to score,” Weiland said, adding that the Americans were not marking any of Canada’s players in particular. “She was opportunistic.”
Weiland was not on the ice for either of Canada’s goals. For the game, she skated in 15 shifts totaling 8 minutes, 44 seconds of ice time. Weiland’s action was limited somewhat in the first two periods (she isn’t on the power-play or penalty-killing units) and in the third period when the U.S.’ stars logged most of the shifts.
While the crowd was of course predominantly Canadian, there were plenty of Americans in attendance. Among them were about 18 members of Weiland’s family.
“I just was able to locate them after the game,” Weiland said. “I don’t look around during the game.”
They surely were chanting “USA, USA, USA” when the team members received flowers after getting their medals. The Canadian fans even joined the thunderous chorus in saluting the first competitive game involving either dominant rival in this tournament.
“That was top-notch, very classy,” said Weiland, 29. “We appreciated it. They showed their appreciation for our hard work.”
Weiland isn’t sure whether she’ll pursue the Olympics in 2014, but she does have some short-term plans.
“I’m going to Alaska now, but at some point I’ll definitely be back in Toronto,” she said. “I was living there, training there and did a little (hockey) skills instruction to women and girls,” Weiland explained.
Now when Weiland returns to Palmer and Toronto, she’ll have an Olympic medal to show off.
Contact staff writer Matias Saari at firstname.lastname@example.org.