A Tale of Two Golds

When I embarked on my journey to PyeongChang to call 19 men’s and women’s hockey games in a 12-day span, I never would have imagined both gold medal games would end in thrilling fashion past regulation.

[Where’s Kenny? Olympics Edition]

Redemption was on the minds of all 23 members of the U.S. women’s squad – not only the 10 players who suffered a bitter defeat four years earlier in Sochi, but the 13 Olympic rookies as well who watched the 2014 overtime loss (after leading 2-0 with under four minutes remaining in the third period) on television. The U.S. – captained by Cammi Granato – last won gold in Nagano in 1998.

Since then, the Americans lost three gold medal games to Canada (2002, 2010, 2014) and did not even reach the final game in Torino in 2006. The two countries are so evenly matched. In the preliminary round in South Korea, one week prior to the gold medal match, the U.S. fell short against their neighbors from the north 2-1, despite outshooting the Canadians, 45-23.

When I arrived at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 22 – the 38th Anniversary of the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid – there was a sense of excitement and anticipation. I met with U.S. head coach Robb Stauber two hours before the opening faceoff along with my broadcast partner A.J. Mleczko, a member of the 1998 gold-medal winning team.

Stauber, a former Los Angeles Kings goaltender, told us his team was very focused. He also said he wanted fans to remember his team as “one of the most creative they’ve ever seen, thanks to speed, puck possession and skill.” His comment proved to be prescient.

The U.S. took a 1-0 lead on a power play deflection by three-time Olympian Hilary Knight in the first period. However, the momentum swung in the middle period when Canada scored twice in the first 6:55, including one from Marie-Philip Poulin – her fifth goal in the last three gold medal matches against the United States. The tension built with every shift in the third period. When Monique Lamoureux-Morando beat Shannon Szabados on a breakaway with 6:21 remaining in regulation to tie the game, the United States bench exploded. My heart was palpitating while calling the 20-minute, four-on-four overtime period, which included a Canada power play for the final 1:35.

It was on to a shootout.

Canada took a 2-1 lead after four shooters. Amanda Kessel and Jocelyne Lamoreux-Davidson scored spectacular goals for the United States, and 20-year-old goaltender Maddie Rooney (who was 7 1/2 months old when the U.S. won gold in Nagano) shut the door by stopping the final two Canada shooters. Rooney came charging out of her crease to celebrate with her ecstatic teammates.

A mere 7,311 days after winning gold in Nagano, the American women were once again Olympic champions. Their lives will be changed forever. The entire team headed to the “Today Show” a few hours after the game ended, and will now head on tour – including a stop at The Garden where they will be honored during the Rangers game against Winnipeg next Tuesday.

It was a huge honor – and one of the highlights of my career – to call the United States victory, as well as the men’s tournament. Despite a huge coming-out party from collegians Ryan Donato and Troy Terry, the U.S. men fell short in a quarterfinal shootout against the Czech Republic.

The men’s gold medal game between Germany and the Olympic Athletes from Russia proved to be just as exciting as the women’s game three days earlier. Germany shocked the hockey world by advancing to the gold medal game for the first time in Olympic history, and they held a 3-2 lead (with a power play!) in the final moments of regulation. The Olympic Athletes from Russia tied the game with a shorthanded goal with 56 seconds left, then won the game on a power play goal from Minnesota Wild draft pick Kirill Kaprizov in overtime.

Another fun aspect of calling hockey at the Olympics was fraternizing with the former NHL stars who provided TV commentary for various networks in PyeongChang.

How would this team of analysts have done on the ice?

Goaltender: Brian Boucher

Defensemen: Kimmo Timonen, Mike Milbury, Calle Johansson, Enrico Ciccone

Forwards: Peter Forsberg, Jeremy Roenick, Alexei Yashin, Ray Ferraro, Mariusz Czerkawski, Keith Jones, Jocelyn Lemieux, Tuomo Ruutu, P.J. Stock

Coach: Pierre McGuire

KENNY’S PICS FROM PYEONGCHANG

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.