BEIJING — Sarah Nurse was lamenting the lack of an available Tim Hortons in Beijing.
It wasn't that the forward on Canada's Olympic women's hockey team was craving a cup of joe. She just felt goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens deserved a bit of a pick-me-up after stopping 51 shots Tuesday in a 4-2 win over the archrival United States.
"We'll definitely have to get her coffee in the morning. If only there was a Tim Hortons so that we could treat her after the game," Nurse said after Canada closed out the preliminary round at 4-0 and finished atop Group A.
"She was such a huge part of this win and she's a big part of the team."
It was another classic battle between the two women's powers who will almost certainly meet again in the Feb. 17 gold-medal game. Canada has won four of the six gold medals in women's hockey since the sport was introduced at the 1998 Nagano Games, while the defending champion U.S. has won the other two.
Brianne Jenner scored twice for Canada, while captain Marie-Philip Poulin converted a penalty shot. Jamie Lee Rattray had Canada's other goal.
Dani Cameranesi and Alex Carpenter countered for the U.S., which finished second in the group at 3-1.
Canada will face the third-place team in Group B in the quarterfinals, but outside of a favourable matchup in the final eight Canada head coach Troy Ryan wasn't reading too much into winning the group.
"I'd always rather be on this side of it, but history says it doesn't necessarily mean a lot," he said. "We are happy that we continue to gain confidence. We also like the fact that we didn't play our best but still found a way to win."
After a four-medal day on Monday, Tuesday was a day marked by podium near-misses despite promising performances by Canada's young athletes in Beijing.
Freestyle skier Megan Oldham was just off the podium in the women's big air competition a day after finishing first in qualifying, while alpine skier Jack Crawford was sixth in the men's super-G. Calgary's Scott Gow put together Canada's best performance ever in a men's 20-kilometre biathlon, finishing fifth.
Oldham was consistent in her three runs on Tuesday, and landed a trick she had never done in competition before on her final jump.
It just wasn't enough to get on the podium.
American-born Eileen Gu, who competes for China, wowed the few spectators on hand when she clinched gold on her final jump with a double cork 1620 — a move in which skiers spin 4 1/2 times while rotating twice off-axis while 20-some feet in the air.
Tess Ledeux of France earned silver and Switzerland's Mathilde Gremaud took bronze.
Oldham hit a switch double-cork 1080 — three full spins, two off-axis rotations and a backwards jump or landing — for the first time in competition. She also landed a double-cork 1260.
"I landed the two tricks that I wanted to in finals," Oldham said. "So as much as fourth place is kind of a tough position to be in, I'm still really happy with my jumps."
Gow’s fifth-place finish in the men’s 20-kilometre individual biathlon was enough to equal Canada’s best-ever result in a men’s biathlon event. The 31-year-old Gow missed just one of his 20 targets and finished the event in a time of 49 minutes, 53 seconds, more than a minute behind gold medallist Quentin Fillon Maillet of France.
"Almost a perfect race. Nineteen out of 20 (shots) is really awesome. I'm happy with how I managed the range and the wind conditions. Like I said almost perfect," he said.
Fillon Maillet won decisively and added a gold medal to the silver he won in the mixed relay over the weekend. Anton Smolski of Belarus shot clean — hitting all 20 of his targets — and came in 14.8 seconds behind the Frenchman.
A day after finishing fourth in the men's downhill, missing the podium by 0.07 seconds, Crawford was impressive again with a sixth-place finish in the super-G. But he considers the discipline his specialty and hoped he could win his first-ever Olympic medal in the race.
"It's definitely a little bit disappointing, but I'm still I'm still young and I actually haven't had a World Cup podium or anything like that," he said. "I haven't quite reached that level yet.
"I was hoping that might happen here but just isn't time yet, I guess."
Austria's Matthias Mayer won gold to successfully defend his Olympic title. Ryan Cochran-Siegle of the United States earned silver and Norway's Aamodt Aleksander Kilde took bronze.
Calgary's Trevor Philp briefly lost his pole on his run but recovered for a time of 1:21.34 to place 10th.
Also Tuesday, Canadian figure skater Keegan Messing finally got into competition after a trying trek to Beijing.
A day after arriving in China, he skated a clean men's short program that included a quadruple toe loop to score 93.24 points, good for ninth place.
American Nathan Chen led the way, scoring 113.97 — a world short program record. Yuma Kagiyama was second with 108.12, and Japanese teammate Shoma Uno third with 105.90.
Messing, who captured his first Canadian title last month in Ottawa, tested positive for COVID-19 in Vancouver before the Canadian team's charter to Beijing.
Needing four negative tests before getting the green light to travel, he was forced to spend about a week in Vancouver, running up and down his hotel stairwell to keep fit before he was cleared to practise during private ice time in the city.
He finally flew to China via Montreal and Milan, arriving in Beijing on Monday morning, less than 24 hours before the short program.
"I’m an optimistic guy, but this definitely took the cake for putting my optimism to a test," Messing said. "It was a struggle, the mental health side of things for this journey was huge.
"To pop a positive (COVID-19 test) at the finish line is devastating, and then to be thrown into quarantine at the peak of training … to be sitting there in a room all by yourself, being bored out of your mind, open up your phone, and then see all your friends on the plane that you're supposed to be on, it was a journey just to keep the happy-go-lucky attitude."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2022.
The Canadian Press