WRITTEN BY MARK HOUSER
The only rookie on the women’s hockey team in Vancouver, goalie Brianne McLaughlin had a Winter Olympics she will never forget, culminating in a silver medal. While she looks forward to finishing her studies at RMU and becoming a nurse, she also plans to keep training for Sochi in 2014.
Like kids fighting for the back seat of the school bus, USA athletes scrambled to be the last team out in the opening ceremonies parade. The women’s hockey players struggled with Shaun White and the snowboarders, linking arms to fend them off, even chicken-fighting. “It was like an hour ordeal,” McLaughlin laughs. “We won.”
She expected to spend the Olympics cheering from the bench, but with 8 minutes left in the first game and USA holding a 10-0 lead over China, coach Mark Johnson sent No. 29 between the pipes. “I tried not to freak out,” she remembers. She stopped the first scoring chance with her left pad after it caromed off a teammate’s skate. Then China got a power play, and in seconds she had fended off two more shots, one with an excellent kick save, another she snagged in her glove. The flurry prompted NBC announcer and former gold medalist Cammi Granato to exclaim, “Brianne McLaughlin is up to the task!” That jinxed it; seconds later, Jin Fengling blasted a shot through two defensewomen and a screened McLaughlin for China’s only goal of the game. She stopped one more shot at the buzzer to end a memorable night.
After a disappointing 2-0 loss to Canada in the final, the team was crestfallen as it skated out to receive silver medals. “I didn’t want to be smiling when everyone else is crying.
But then the goalie who played, Jessie Vetter, looks at me and says, ‘I know we lost and everything, but we’re about to get our first Olympic medal.’ And then she smiled and gave me this big high five, and that kind of gave me license to be happy. You look up in the stands and see all those people there. My family had a gigantic banner that said, ‘We love Brianne!’ And when everyone in the arena started chanting ‘U-S-A,’ even I got a little emotional at that moment. It was such a cool feeling.”
The women’s team was on vacation in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands during March Madness. When RMU took an early lead over Villanova, defensewoman Caitlyn Cahow announced that if the Colonials won, she’d get McLaughlin’s face tattooed on her arm. “She was sweating pretty bad in overtime,” McLaughlin says.