SOCHI, Russia - Winning was never going to be easy. Dan Bylsma knew that years ago.
He knew that full well before he accepted the job as head coach of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team.
He knew it four years ago, as he watched the 2010 gold-medal game with his son just north of Pittsburgh. A year prior, Bylsma had coached his Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup victory, but in watching the hard-fought contest between the United States and Canada in 2010, he knew no elite-level hockey tournament would ever be won easily.
"You have to go through the best," Bylsma said ahead of the United States’ semifinal game against Canada Friday at Bolshoy Ice Dome.
In a low-scoring game with opportune chances but stagnant success, Canada beat the U.S. 1-0 to move on to the gold-medal game. The U.S. will face Finland in the bronze-medal match Saturday.
Canada beat the U.S. in an overtime decision to take the gold medal in 2010.
"Maybe the disappointment is that it wasn't for a gold medal," Bylsma said after the game. "They're two great teams in the tournament. (It’s a) rematch from 2010 and there's huge disappointment in not coming up with the victory in this game."
But, he added, it's not over yet.
"That's going to be put behind us real quick. We still have much to play for and we will deal with that tomorrow," Bylsma said.
Finland, the 2010 bronze medalist, has never won gold in the tournament but has twice captured the silver. The U.S. last won gold in a victorious breakthrough series in 1980 and is second all-time in the Olympic ice hockey medal count.
The U.S. entered the semifinal round having outscored its opponents 20-6 in the Sochi tournament, while Canada had put up 10 more goals than its previous opponents.
Despite several good chances on both sides, Canada scored the sole goal of Friday's game 1:41 into the second period as Jamie Benn tipped the puck past U.S. goaltender Jonathan Quick off a slapshot pass from Canadian blueliner Jay Bouwmeester.
Both teams entered the game looking to play blue-collar hockey by utilizing speed and hard forechecking to try to make gains on the other. Shots came out 37-31 in favor of Canada.
"We did not get enough traffic in front of their goal and find second chances to score," said U.S. forward David Backes. He added, a moment later, "We have one more chance to win a medal and make this trip worth it."
"We're going home with the bronze medal after we put this loss behind us," Bylsma said.