SOCHI, Russia — Canada had its first medal-less day at the Sochi Olympics on Thursday but a win in men’s hockey and big results from curlers Brad Jacobs and Jennifer Jones helped temper the disappointment.
Drew Doughty scored an important insurance goal and added an assist as Team Canada defeated Norway 3-1 to open its Olympic title defence.
The game was more of a nailbiter than most would’ve expected. Norway held Canada scoreless in the first period and goaltender Lars Haugen kept his team in the game even as Canada started to assert itself.
“We got better as the game went on,” Canada forward Martin St. Louis said.
“They are a hard team to play against because they don’t take a lot of chances.”
Canada also had promising results in curling.
Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones leads the women’s standings at 5-0 after 8-5 wins over Denmark and Switzerland on Thursday.
On the men’s side, Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., improved to 3-2 by edging Denmark 7-6 to. After consecutive losses to Switzerland and Sweden, the Canadian men have righted themselves with wins over Russia and Denmark.
Still, a lack of hardware lately has allowed other teams to pass Canada in the medal standings. Canada has just one silver medal over the past two days of competition and is tied for fifth overall (10 medals, four gold, four silver two bronze) with Germany.
Norway leads with 13 medals, followed by the Netherlands and the United States with 12 each and Russia with 11.
Canada will have a good shot at another medal Friday when Toronto’s Patrick Chan skates in the men’s long program. He was second after the short program Thursday behind record-setter Yuzuru Hanyu.
The 19-year-old Japanese phenom, who lives and trains in Toronto, won the short program with a whopping world-record 101.45 points. That made him the first man in history to break the 100-point barrier.
And Chan, a three-time world champion, is comfortable letting Hanyu bask in the limelight.
“I like being in second, I like being in the chase. It’s exciting,” Chan said. “Now I can go out and enjoy my program.
“Yuzuru has a bit of a target that he’s not quite used to having. And at the Olympics, the target is double in size.”
In men’s hockey, Norway gave Canada all it could handle, especially early on. The Canadians looked like they were going to pull away in the second on goals from Shea Weber and Jamie Benn.
But then former NHL player Patrick Thoresen scored 22 seconds into the third and it looked like an upset might be brewing.
Doughty made sure Norway didn’t have the momentum for long, scoring a vital insurance goal 85 seconds later.
“I think, you know, you’re playing your first game and everyone’s probably thinking about where they need to be and systems — probably a thousand things going through their minds,” Canadian captain Sidney Crosby said. “I think just once we settled in and realized how we play and how we need to play, we started to get some good results.”
Canada will get a chance to work further on its game Friday against Austria. For Canada’s luge team, however, there are no more chances to work out the kinks.
Canada fell just short of the podium in luge for a third straight day as Calgary’s Sam Edney, Alex Gough and Justin Snith and Tristan Walker of Cochrane, Alta., finished fourth in the first-ever Olympic team luge event.
“I don’t think there are words for how much it sucks,” Gough said, two days after she finished fourth in the women’s event.
Edney had finished 11th in the men’s singles last weekend while Walker and Snith settled for fourth in the men’s doubles on Wednesday.
All four sliders were disappointed after those early events but knew they’d have another shot in the relay. That’s why this latest blow may have hurt the worst of all.
“I’m crushed,” Walker said. “Words can’t even describe it. There was no one thing to pinpoint. We all could have found three-hundredths (of a second in each run). It just hurts.”
All three fourth-place results were Canadian bests, but ultimately it means four more years before Canada can try again for its first-ever Olympic luge medal.
Canada also struggled in short track, failing to reach the final in the men’s relay and the women’s 500 metres.
Canada was out of the men’s relay semifinal when Francois Hamelin, from Ste-Julie, Que., tripped on a marker and fell.
“I lost us the medal,” a tearful Hamelin said of the incident, which came only days after his brother Charles had the team on a high from winning the individual 1,500-metre race. “I cost Canada a medal. I really feel guilty.”
Charles Hamelin seemed more philosophical about the result.
“In short-track, you can have glory one day and have your heart broken the next,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Marianne St-Gelais of Saint-Felicien, Que., fell short in her bid for a medal in the women’s 500 metres. She was the silver medallist over that distance at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Jones’ rink was tied 5-5 with Switzerland when she scored three in the ninth with the hammer to take control. But there would be no comeback for the Swiss, who suffered their second defeat of the day.
As for Jacobs, he’s optimistic his team is back in form.
“We’re getting better,” he said. “I really think we played really well in the last four games.
“We’re learning each and every game and we’re bringing a lot more intensity out there which is what we need to do.”