SOCHI, Russia — The work began before the U.S. women’s hockey team reached the medal round, before it arrived in Sochi, before the roster was even selected.
Four years ago, the Americans left the Olympics with a silver medal. And Julie Chu was determined to be back.
“When that buzzer goes off and it erupted in the arena and we fell short of our goal of being the best in the world, that hurts,” the four-time Olympian said after the United States beat Sweden 6-1 on Monday to reach the gold medal game in Sochi. “The last four years, that’s been our goal.”
Megan Bozek and Brianna Decker each had a goal and two assists, and the Americans outshot Sweden 70-9 to clinch no worse than a silver medal. The U.S. has medaled in every Winter Games since women’s hockey was added in 1998, and just once — with a loss to Sweden in the 2006 semifinals — failed to reach the Olympic championship game.
Canada, a three-time defending champion that has played in every Olympic final, would have a chance for a fourth gold in a row with a victory over Switzerland later Monday. Not since the inaugural tournament in Nagano have the Americans beaten Canada, losing in the championship game in 2002 and `10 and again in the preliminary round of the Sochi Games on Wednesday.
There are 11 players on the U.S. roster who played in the final in Vancouver, but Chu is the only one who was also on the team in Salt Lake City or Turin. She has two silver medals and a bronze.
“We’re going for a different color this time,” she said.
And coach Katey Stone would like to see her get it.
“It’s about time isn’t it? It’s time,” said Stone, who was also Chu’s coach at Harvard. “Julie’s been everything to the program, she’s been a youngster, she’s been a veteran … she’s been a mother to the younger kids. Kids like that don’t come around all the time. She’s a special one. I certainly hope she gets what she wants.”