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|Frustration was evident on the face of David Backes and the rest of Team USA on Sunday, but there's no shame in silver after few gave them a chance to medal at all. (Getty Images). |
Back in January, just days after being selected to play for Team USA in the Olympics, Blues defenseman Erik Johnson told me that although nobody gave them a shot at winning, he thought Team USA had a chance to bring home the gold.
"Nobody’s betting any money on us to win it, but we’re going there to win and I think we have the team to do it," he said. "Anything can happen.”
It wasn't going to be easy, but on the strong play of goaltender Ryan Miller and with frequent contributions from guys like Johnson and David Backes
, the Americans found themselves playing for a Gold Medal on Sunday. And despite being down 2-0 in the second period, they battled back and tied the game with 24.4 seconds remaining to force Canada, the heavy favorites, into overtime.
Sidney Crosby eventually won the game for Canada, and although they probably don't realize it now, what Johnson, Backes and the rest of the Americans did these past two weeks for USA hockey was beyond what any of us could have realistically hoped for.
There's no shame in silver, especially when few gave them a chance to medal at all.
“The sting of this loss is going to be there for a little while," Team USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner
told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I can understand and appreciate what we did do and the fact that our team showed unbelievable character. The grit and battle and heart we showed all tournament was fantastic and it was fun to be a part of that.
“You let the dust settle and then you get some time to reflect, I think this group will be proud of what they accomplished.”
The Americans were 5-0 going into Sunday's Gold Medal game, having already beat Canada 5-3 last week. En route to Sunday's game, Team USA dominated Finland, the eventual Bronze Medalists, 6-1 on Friday.
"It was a special group and we fell one goal short of our ultimate goal, but we did a lot of special things in these two weeks," Langenbrunner said.
Backes finished the tournament with 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) and was a +4. He made a big impact for Team USA early in the tournament, scoring a highlight-reel goal that propeled the United States to their first win against Switzerland and helped set the tone the rest of the way.
Johnson got stronger as the tournament went on, scoring a goal in the 6-1 rout of Finland. He finished the tournament with a plus-minus rating of +3.
While watching the postgame medal ceremony, I saw dejection and frustration on the faces of the players as they were awarded their silver medals. But I suspect someday they'll look back at Sunday's game as a victory.
A victory for themselves as players. A victory for the USA hockey program. A victory for the entire US of A, land of the free, home of the brave.
Head Coach Ron Wilson may have put it best.
"I couldn't have asked anything more of our players. They did us proud," he said. "They played hard for 60-some minutes, right to the end in regulation and made a great play but they found a way to finish us off. But, we are very proud of every one of our players -- their character, how hard they tried, their comportment here has been excellent.
"It's just a shame that both teams couldn't have received a gold medal today. Sometimes, the best team in the tournament doesn't win a gold medal. I thought our team played as well as any team I have ever coached."
For Backes, Johnson and Team USA, the past two weeks are something to be proud of.
And there's a silver medal to prove it.