Amanda Kessel and Abby Roque hug one another after losing 3-2 to Team Canada in the Women's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match between Team Canada and Team United States at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 17, 2022 in Beijing, China.
BEIJING — Shortly after stepping off the ice from her third game in six days, the gold-medal game at the Olympic Winter Games no less, U.S. goalie Alex Cavallini revealed she’s been dealing with an MCL tear since January.
Count it as just another bit of adversity the U.S. women had to fight through to make the championship game against Canada. Team USA suffered a disappointing 3-2 loss, but its veteran leaders were proud of the way the team overcame its challenges to play for a gold medal. Cavallini was proud of how she made it through and thankful for the help from her team.
“This one was really special,” Cavallini said. “I actually tore my MCL on Jan. 14 and didn’t even know if I was going to make it on the flight here. So for me to be able to battle out thanks to our med staff and our coaching staff, who continued to believe in me even when I didn’t and supported me along the way, that was a huge deal for me to even get minutes here.”
Cavallini did more than just get minutes. She played four games and allowed just five goals. Her 1.27 goals against average was the best among any goalie who played three or more games. She was disappointed to allow three goals in the gold-medal game but didn’t allow any scores in the third period as the U.S. tried to come back.
Cavallini’s was of course not the only injury that affected Team USA. The tournament started off on a sour note for the U.S. as assistant captain and leader Brianna Decker went down with a leg injury. She would miss the rest of the tournament, which changed things for the team both on and off the ice, though she was able to be around the team and offer what she could as a leader.
“She not only has a presence on the ice but off the ice and she is an incredible leader on the ice,” said defenseman Cayla Barnes. “And to not have her throughout the tournament was tough for us. But she still made an impact in other ways.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic had some effect on all teams in Beijing, not just Team USA, it was one additional bit of difficulty the team dealt with. That started well before the Games, cancelling the final three games of the team’s My Why Tour series of exhibitions with Canada, important preparation in the months leading up to the Olympic tournament.
“I think that’s the amazing part. There was a lot of adversity,” said forward Amanda Kessel. “There was a handful of us that almost didn’t make it over here because of COVID to start. Then our goaltender’s out. Then to lose your top player, or if not one of the best players in the world. She’s unbelievable and has been the top center on this team for a while. To lose her, it definitely hurt our team. We did our best to try to come together, and I’m proud of our team for sticking together through it all.”
While many players felt as Kessel did that this loss is likely to sting for some time, they also found some pride in simply playing in a game of this magnitude. Every game between the U.S. and Canada is a big deal, and that’s even more true at the Olympic Games. An emotional Kendall Coyne Schofield hoped that the eyes on and support of women’s hockey will continue unabated, instead of experiencing a spike every four years.
“I know there’s a lot of girls watching back home,” the U.S. captain began, before tearing up. “Women’s hockey cannot be silent after these two weeks. They need to be able to see themselves in us, and it can’t be silent. It can’t just not be visible because it’s not the Olympic Games. We need to continue to push for visibility. We need to continue to fight for women’s hockey because it’s not good enough. It can’t end after the Olympic Games.”
There is perhaps no better example of women’s ice hockey than U.S.-Canada at the Olympics, a responsibility the players can feel.
“I think anytime you get to play in a gold-medal game, whether it’s against Canada or whoever, we’re on the biggest stage and we want to show the world what women’s hockey is about. And I think we did a great job of that,” said Hannah Brandt. “We want to be the winners of it as well, but I hope we were able to show the world what women’s hockey is all about.”
Even in defeat the team was proud of the way it stuck together. As Cavallini left the ice she was greeted with a hug, she believed from Megan Keller but, as she admitted, they “have some really good huggers on the team.” The players could say they battled until the end.
“I think the way we played today shows the fight, the grit, the resiliency and the adversity that this group has faced and has overcome over these last three years, six months and two weeks,” said Coyne Schofield. “There’s so much to be proud of.”
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Olympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.