SOCHI, Russia – There are times, Molly Schaus admits, when she wishes she were the goalie at the other end of the rink in a one-sided Olympic hockey game, the one facing a steady diet of pucks. What goalie doesn’t thrive on a heavy workload?
“I’ve been on the other side of those games,” Schaus said Monday after the U.S. women’s hockey team blanked Switzerland, 9-0. “It is fun to face the puck a lot and be that person. But at the same time, it’s awesome to be part of this team. One save, 50 saves, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.”
For the record, she had 10 saves against the Swiss. She had one, maybe two, difficult chances. Otherwise, Schaus had an easy day of it. She spent a lot of time on her own while her teammates fired 53 shots on the Swiss goal.
But that’s life for the U.S. women’s goalies, who get their most vigorous workouts in practice and are often reduced to spectators in games. At least Schaus was busier than in her Olympic debut four years ago, when she faced only four shots and sat out the third period in a 12-1 win over China.
“It’s no big surprise, knowing what they can do up there,” Schaus said.
“Our forwards are so skilled, and they have so much speed that you give them an opportunity, they can score quickly. It’s fun to watch. It means they’re moving the puck well.”
This time, Schaus went all 60 minutes for the shutout. But it’s not about saves, any more than it’s about stats for the rest of the 21-member American team. It’s about gold, which has eluded them since the U.S. won the inaugural women’s Olympic tournament in 1998. Schaus won silver in 2010.
“I mean, it’s always special, any time you’re out there in this jersey,” Schaus said. “It’s a blast. A couple of years from now, looking back, it’ll be a great memory. But for now, it’s just one more game. We took care of business, and we’re on to the next one.”
Not a lot has changed since 2010. Schaus is the nominal backup to Jesse Vetter, who started in the gold-medal game against Canada in Vancouver. The U.S. and Canada, who meet Wednesday in the preliminary round, are big favorites to meet for the gold medal.
The one major difference is that her father isn’t here to cheer her on. Dave Schaus, a Buffalo native who was her biggest supporter in Vancouver, died in September 2012. Schaus said she misses her dad terribly, and he’ll be constantly in her thoughts as she goes for a gold medal.
“It’s definitely been a hard year-and-a half,” she said, “but my teammates are the best, and they’ve supported me the whole way. USA Hockey and my family, to be back at this point, it means a lot to all of us, and we’re looking forward to celebrating together.”
Her mother, Cathy, made the trip to Sochi. So did her uncle John, her dad’s brother. Her aunts Barb and Julie Schaus will make the journey to Russia next week, and Molly’s brother Mike will come over, too.
“There’ll be a huge Schaus contingent here,” Molly said, “and it means a lot to have them around and to share this moment with them.”
She has Buffalo in her blood. Her parents grew up a few blocks apart in North Buffalo. Cathy went to Holy Angels; Dave graduated from Canisius High. They moved out of Buffalo six months before Molly was born. They eventually settled in Boston, where Molly played at Boston College.
“Buffalo is one of my favorite places to be,” Schaus said. “We spent the last three Thanksgivings there. All the cousins are starting to get married. We went in August, and we’re going again in May for some weddings.”
She has a cousin, Nick Schaus, who plays pro hockey in Europe. Another cousin, Paul, of Cheektowaga, will play for the U.S. sled hockey team next month in the Paralympics here in Sochi.
At Vancouver, Dave Schaus said it was like being in a movie, watching his baby girl’s dream come true. Molly said her teammates have been a great source of strength since his passing. Julie Chu, who is on her fourth Olympic team, said Schaus’ personal strength has been an inspiration to the U.S. team.
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