Round of Applause
TJ Oshie became one of my favorite athletes in the whole world thanks to his performance — on and off the ice — last Saturday in Team USA’s incredible, 3-2 shootout win over Russia in Olympic hockey prelims. There are folks out there who hate the idea of a hockey shootout ending a game (especially in the Olympics), and their argument is not totally baseless. But without the absurd, eight-round shootout that gave the Americans victory last weekend, we would not have our new American sporting hero in TJ Oshie. International rules allow a team to keep reusing a player in the shootout past the third round, so the Americans stuck with their best shooter in Oshie the entire way. He connected on an insane four of six shots, including the game-winner in the eighth stanza. Immediately after the final goal, he pointed down to Connecticut’s own Jonathan Quick, who anchored Team USA to the win between the pipes, and was even more humble after the game. He responded to comments that he was an American hero by saying that, “The real heroes wear camo,” which just jacked up Oshie to another level. I’m happy to say my own TJ Oshie jersey is on order right now and I will be proudly wearing it as soon as it gets here, no matter the outcome of this Olympic tournament. Team USA will take on Canada in Friday’s semifinals at noon. The Gold Medal Game is Sunday at 7 a.m.
Team USA had a great rebound in the medal count starting last Thursday, when of course my proclamation that we were in for a disappointing Olympics hit these pages. The turnaround started when the Americans swept the snowboard slopestyle event and has pretty much continued on a medal-a-day pace. Even with the few disappointments — men’s snowboard halfpipe was really, really bad — it’s been an overall exciting Olympics. Hopefully it ends with a bang in Sunday’s hockey final.
Chorus of Boos
Detractors of so-called extreme Olympic sports need to relax a little bit. The popular thing to say for many folks of previous generations when they see the slopestyle and halfpipe events is, “When did the Olympics turn into the X-Games?” Perhaps I can either be the one to talk sense into you or be the bearer of bad news, but these are real sports. I don’t really see anybody complaining about moguls or aerials, which are also freestyle sports that feature flips and tricks. There are only so many sports you can have at the Winter Olympics, so the organizers keep doing the right thing by adding more disciplines to match the evolution of these sports around the world. And, hell, if ping pong is in the Summer Olympics, I think riding down a hill at 50 mph and flipping four times in midair can be in the Winter Games.
Word from the Woods
The Hawks earned a 31-24 victory over Seymour on their senior night last Wednesday to close out their home season. Becky Hale led the way with 12 points while senior captain Andrea Piccolo contributed eight for Woodland, which overcame an 18-16 deficit after three quarters. The Hawks (6-14) concluded their season with a 43-32 win over Derby. Hale scored 16 points in the victory versus Derby as Cameron Caswell added nine.
Woodland squared off against Kennedy last Wednesday, but no results were reported. The Hawks fell to Masuk, 92-68, to close out the regular season Thursday. Events winners for Woodland were Andy O’Dell in the 200 freestyle (1:54.82) and 100 fly (58.31); Aidan Music in the 200 IM (2:11.67) and the 400 freestyle relay team of O’Dell, James Jensen, John Dyckman, Alan Ketrenya, no time was reported. The Hawks will now get set for the Naugatuck Valley League championships begin with swim trials March 4 at Kennedy.
After qualifying for the state tournament with a 59-25 win over Wilby on Feb. 11, the Greyhounds suffered a 57-42 loss to Sacred Heart on Feb. 12. Angelina Piccirillo led the way for Naugy with 15 points while Nicole Boucher tacked on 14. The Greyhounds (8-12) fell to Torrington, 52-36, to close out the regular season Thursday. Piccirillo scored a game-high 18 points for Naugatuck, which qualified for the NVL tournament. The Greyhounds will face Holy Cross in the quarterfinals of the league tournament at 1:45 p.m. Saturday at Wilby High School in Waterbury.
Naugatuck’s scheduled meets against Watertown and Kennedy were both postponed due to the week’s snowstorms, so the Greyhounds experienced an eight-day hiatus between meets. They visited Watertown on Wednesday where the Indians swam past Naugy 100.5-80.5. Adam Branco won the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:11.53. The 400 free relay squad of Marcus Cruz, Jake Morrissey, Vincent Thoren and John Dean won the event in 3:42.92. Naugatuck will visit Crosby on Friday. Naugy will close out the regular season Monday at Kennedy before the Naugatuck Valley League championships begin March 4.