Canadian Dartmouth icers capture Olympic gold medal

by Ben Zimmerman | 2/22/06 6:00am

At least that's the way things stood last Friday.

As day seven of the 2006 Winter Olympics dawned over Torino, Italy, all seemed well. Led by Dartmouth's Katie Weatherston '06, Cherie Piper '06 and Gillian Apps '06, Team Canada entered the women's ice hockey semifinals undefeated, having outscored its opponents 36-1 along the way.

On the other side of the draw stood the United States. Like their northern neighbors, the Americans had yet to taste tie or defeat. Sure, the squad's road to the final four had been a little bumpier than Canada's, but bumpy is a relative term. Finland, which gave Team USA its stiffest challenge of the preliminary round, still fell five goals short of an upset.

To most observers, the semifinals were little more than a prelude to yet another U.S.-Canada gold medal game.

And then lightning struck -- figuratively. Sweden beat the United States.

In the first period, Dartmouth alumnus Kristin King '02 capitalized on a power play to give the United States an early 1-0 lead. Less than 15 minutes later, Kelly Stephens extended the American advantage to two. With a comfortable lead and momentum on its side, the United States appeared to have the game under control, but the Swedes hung tough.

Capitalizing on a pair of American turnovers, Sweden's Maria Rooth scored twice in a little over three minutes, evening the contest at 2-2. Through the remainder of regulation and overtime, neither side found the back of the net. In the shootout that followed, Sweden won 2-0, completing one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.

"We were all pretty much in shock after the game," Dartmouth's own American forward Sarah Parsons '09 said.

The loss was tough to swallow, but after taking a couple of days off, the United States regrouped and refocused on the Finns, America's opponent in the bronze medal game.

"I think we are going to come out flying and smoke them and prove to everyone how good our team actually is," Parsons said. "We didn't sacrifice this much and work so hard to come home empty handed."

And "smoke them" the United States did, shutting out Finland 4-0.

"I felt a mixture of emotions," Parsons said of her bronze medal. "I was obviously disappointed about not playing in the final game, but a medal is a medal and our team worked hard for it. So, I'm happy about that."

Parsons, the youngest player on Team USA at 18, scored four goals in the tournament, surpassing all pre-Torino expectations. This time next year, she'll be lending her services to the Big Green.

The Canadians fared much better than their American rivals.

Up against Finland, Weatherston drew first blood late in the first period. Apps padded the lead less than three minutes later, and Piper closed out the match with two goals in the final frame. Canada easily defeated Finland 6-0.

In the gold medal game, Sweden came in looking for a second miracle. It didn't find one. The Canadians cruised to a 4-1 victory and the vaunted gold. Apps and Piper both scored once.

Rachel Rochat '95 and her Swiss team defeated Italy 11-0 to take seventh in the tournament. Rochat picked up two assists.

For Dartmouth's hockey players, the 2006 Winter Games are over. For some, it has been a mixture of good and bad. For the Canadians, it was pretty much just good. But whether in victory or defeat, these women have the satisfaction of knowing that they reached the pinnacle of their sport. They lived the dream.

"It's impossible to describe it all, but basically the whole first couple days were so overwhelming and fun and then once we started playing things only became better -- until the Sweden game obviously," Parsons said. "I'm just so happy I was able to be a part of it all."