Checking out some of the action on Wednesday night’s Olympic schedule:
The Highlight: Women’s Hockey
Neumann University defenseman Steph Grundy, a Canadian, is having some teammates over to her home in Aston, Pa. for tonight’s USA-Canada women’s hockey gold medal game (11 p.m., NBCSN).
She has two hopes. One is a victory for her home and native land. The other is that her house is still standing when the game ends.
Then there are Americans Julia Fair, the Knights’ goaltender, and forward Jackie Schneider. They passed their nervous energy by decorating Neumann’s locker room with American flags and red-white-and-blue paper ribbons just to get a rise out of their Canadian teammates. Neumann had practice this afternoon ahead of a playoff game on Sunday.
Tonight’s USA-Canada gold-medal game is the biggest thing for women’s hockey since … well … since the last U.S.-Canada gold-medal game. Or maybe the one before that.
These two teams are Ali-Frazier, except they’ve fought 22 times on their sport’s highest stages. The Canadians have won the last three Olympic gold medal meetings. The United States has won seven of the eight times they’ve played for the IIHF World Championship, but they haven’t beat their rivals to the north in the Olympics since 1998.
Regardless of the outcome (more on that in a minute), the Canada-U.S. rivalry is the primary reason many girls are playing hockey in North America — from Neumann University to State College, Pa. to Concordia, Wisc.
Fair, Neumann’s goaltender who grew up outside of Pittsburgh, formed a friendship with Brianne McLaughlin, one of the goalies on the U.S.’s 2014 Olympic team. Fair was a high school junior and did a job-shadow project that included a workout with McLaughlin which she described as “crazy.”
“It’s great to see girls’ hockey getting exposure,” she said.
Grundy, from Ottawa, was screaming like a madwoman when Canada made that remarkable comeback to steal the 2014 Olympic gold from the Americans. “Down 2-0 with five minutes left, you’re thinking it’s over,” she said. “That was the most intense game ever.”
There are seven Canadians on Neumann’s roster and 15 Americans. Both Fair and Grundy described it as a friendly rivalry, which is a fine sentiment 12 hours before faceoff. But wait’ll the puck drops.
Coincidentally, each player picked a 3-2 overtime game. Fair said the U.S. would win. Grundy picked her Canadians.
“It’ll be a fun having everybody at my house,” Fair said. “I just hope it’s civil.”
Neumann University hockey players Julia Fair and Jackie Schneider surprised/needled Canadian teammates by hanging decorations and American flags at the team’s practice facility ahead of tonight’s USA-Canada 2018 Olympic gold medal game.
Also on Wednesday night
Before the hockey rivalry is renewed, we must bid a final Olympic farewell to Lindsey Vonn, whose life has been lived so publicly that it’s often forgotten she is arguably the greatest skier of all time.
Vonn, 33, will compete tonight in the women’s combined – an event that features separate runs of downhill and slalom. The downhill will be during NBC’s 8 p.m. Eastern block while the slalom will come after midnight. She won bronze on Tuesday in the downhill, becoming the oldest woman to win an Alpine Olympic medal, and should be near the leaders after that leg is run. The slalom, however, is a different story. American teammate Mikaela Shiffrin is expected to contend for a medal, but probably not Vonn. She’s suffered more broken bones than one of Jimmy Conway’s rivals in Goodfellas, so her final Olympic race probably won’t mean a podium. So why even try?
“I think my injuries made me stronger,” Vonn told Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. “I do, because I wouldn’t be the same person that I am today,” she said. “When you’re young, you ski and you win and you don’t appreciate things. I’ve been in the fences so many times. I know so many doctors on a first-name basis that it’s ridiculous. So if you need any medical care, just let me know. I can hook you up.”
This and That
*Four Americans are legitimate contenders for the men’s freestyle skiing halfpipe podium. David Wise won this event in Sochi in 2014. Aaron Blunck, Torin Yater-Wallace and Alex Ferreira also are in the hunt. “We don’t talk about it,” Wise said. “Would it be amazing? Absolutely. We’d be so stoked.” Blunck is the reigning winner from the World Championships and the X-Games where he stuck a right-side, double-cork 12 … whatever that is (see video below).
*Friday’s men’s hockey semifinal schedule is Czech Republic vs. Russian Athletes at 2:30 a.m., Germany vs. Canada, 7 a.m. Both are on NBCSN.
*NBCSN’s coverage tonight at 7 p.m. will preview Thursday’s ladies figure skating final. Russians Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva are 1-2 after Tuesday’s short program. Americans Mirai Magasu, Karen Chen and Bradie Tennell are $20 cab rides away at 9th, 10th and 11th, respectively.
U.S. Medalists (16)
Through 4 p.m. Eastern, Wednesday. Feb. 21
Jamie Anderson (snowboarding/women’s slopestyle)
Jessie Diggins/Kikkan Randall (cross-country/women’s team sprint)
Red Gerard (snowboarding/men’s slopestyle)
Chloe Kim (snowboarding/women’s halfpipe)
Mikaela Shiffrin (skiing/women’s giant slalom)
Shaun White (snowboarding/men’s halfpipe)
Lauren Gibbs/Elana Meyers Taylor (bobsled/women’s)
Nick Goepper (freestyle skiing/men’s slopestyle)
John-Henry Krueger (short-track skating/men’s 1000m)
Chris Mazdzer (luge/men’s singles)
Arielle Gold (snowboarding/women’s halfpipe)
Maia & Alex Shibutani (figure skating/ice dancing)
Brita Sigourney (freestyle skiing/women’s halfpipe)
Lindsey Vonn (skiing/women’s downhill)
U.S. Team (figure skating)
U.S. Team (speed skating/women’s team pursuit)
And finally …
Italy’s Sofia Goggia, who won the downhill race in which Lindsey Vonn finished third, was asked to put Vonn’s career in context.
“It speaks for itself,” Goggia said. “She has 140 or 130 (World Cup) podiums. Me, I have 20. She has 81 victories. I have four.”