by Ralph Routon
Jenny Potter, a 31-year-old mother of two children, made history Sunday afternoon in Team USA's first game of the 2010 Winter Games hockey tournament.
Potter, the American team's oldest player, scored three goals and assisted on two more in a 12-1 victory against China. That gave Potter 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in her four Olympics and made her the all-time U.S. scoring leader in women's Olympic play.
"I'm very humbled, but there will be a lot of great players after me, and we all know we can't do it by ourselves," Potter said afterward.
Sometimes the early pool-play games in Olympic women's hockey aren't so well attended, but a near-sellout of about 6,000 spectators, including Vice President Joe Biden accompanied by 2002 Winter Games executive and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, saw the game in the University of British Columbia's arena.
Many in the crowd actually booed at one point when Biden was shown on the arena's big screen, but that reaction also coincided with a questionable officiating call.
Appropriately, four-time Olympian defenseman Angela Ruggiero put the Americans on the board with their first goal of this tournament, taking a loose puck at center ice and moving in to beat the Chinese goaltender with a quick blast under the pads at 2:50 of the first period. That brought the first chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" from the heavily pro-American crowd.
China has improved considerably, but the U.S. women had a clear edge in size and speed, finishing with day with a whopping 61-7 edge in shots on goal.
U.S. coach Mark Johnson decided to use his backup goaltenders, Molly Schaus and Brianne McLaughlin, instead of usual starter Jessie Vetter. Asked about the decision, Johnson said he wanted everyone on the team to share in the experience of playing in games.
"It was a great way for us to start the tournament, because we haven't played a game in 10 or 11 days," Johnson said. "It's a short tournament, and we're just trying to win five hockey games."
It was a much better workout for the Americans in their final pre-Olympic game at Colorado Springs against Finland, when the U.S. women led 2-1 after two periods before eventually winning 5-1. Their next Olympic game will be Tuesday against Russia, before wrapping up pool play Thursday against Finland.