By Jennifer Roback
The Team USA Women's Hockey Team kicked off their run at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on Thursday but will now officially be down a player for the remainder of the event.
Minutes into the opening game, Team USA's star forward Brianna Decker. 30, was down on the ice, screaming in pain, after colliding with Finnish defender Ronja Savolainen. Decker was then taken off the ice on a stretcher but appeared to be alert and conscious.
Hockey insider Erica Ayala later reported that Decker "will not return for the tournament," after she was seen in shorts with crutches and a boot. USA Hockey later confirmed the report to ESPN.
“It was sickening,” USA forward Amanda Kesse said, according to ESPN. "She's one of the toughest players that I've ever played with or against, so you know she's not staying down on the ice or crying when it's not bad. So it's definitely a gut punch. We want to win for her."
Despite the loss of their assistant captain, Team USA was able to rally together and defeat Finland 5-2 in the preliminary game with Kendall Coyne Schofield and Alex Carpenter scoring two goals apiece.
"I just told [Decker], 'We got this,'" Coyne Schofield added. "No matter what, she's a big part of this group. ... You saw that in our response after she went down, how much we picked up the game and took control."
Following the game, Savolainen called the hit "an unlucky situation."
"I just ask how she's feeling, and then I said, 'Sorry.' Like, I didn't want to hurt her," Savolainen explained.
Canadian forward Melodie Daoust was also injured during Canada's 12-1 win over Switzerland after she was checked hard into the boards by Sarah Forster.
Team USA will be back on the ice on February 5, for their preliminary round matchup with the Russian Olympic Committee, starting at 8:00am EST