Niagara Gazette

February 21, 2014

Locals take in another tough Olympic hockey loss

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The packed bar at Honey's restaurant was pretty quiet as the final seconds of the U.S. Men's Olympic Hockey team's semi-final game against Canada ticked off the clock, ending in a 1-0 loss.

Anthony Custode, Jr., decked out in a U.S.A. jersey featuring Western New Yorker Patrick Kane's name and number, said he was especially disappointed to lose to his neighbors to the north.

"I just hate losing to Canada," Custode Jr. said.

The Americans lost to Canada in a heartbreaking overtime loss in the gold medal game at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 when Sidney Crosby fired a puck under the pad of Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.

While that game was full of drama, Friday's loss felt much more one-sided with Canada dominating the puck control battle and generating many more scoring chances than the U.S. team.

Custode Jr. said he never really felt like his team was in the game.

"It should have been two or three to nothing," Custode said. "They were lucky to be down one to nothing."

Amit Walia of Toronto, Ont. was also at Honey's and was one of the few people at the bar clapping as the Canadian team trapped the puck behind the net as the final seconds of the game expired.

He came to the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls to shop and was streaming the game on his phone before arriving at the restaurant.

"I thought the Americans had a shoe-in because Crosby wasn't mending with the team too well initially," Walia said.

Walia thought the Canadian team was able to hold the Americans at bay by concentrating on their defensive play after forward Jamie Benn potted what would be the only goal of the game.

"Canada, obviously, with the inconsistency the last few games, they've been a little sloppy in my opinion," Walia said. "But then they came together when they needed to."

Richard Mathews, the kitchen manager at Honey's, said he expected a big crowd for the noon game.

"That definitely helped our lunch crowd," Mathews said.

Mathews said there are often many Canadians at the restaurant, with the outlet mall around the corner being such a popular destination for so many patrons.

"We get a lot of Canadians here," Mathews said. "Sometimes more than Americans."

Before the game, a crowd of fans, Canadian and American, gathered at Stir, the new sports bar inside Seneca Niagara Casino in downtown Niagara Falls. They watched the game on the casino's new 40-foot-wide, high definition television.

Mike Kenney, of Windsor, Ont., sported his team Canada jersey as he awaited the start of the game.

Kenney, who was on an annual trip to the casino with a group of friends, said he was nervous about the American team's offense.

"The Americans look pretty good to me really," Kenney said before the puck dropped.

But, in the end, Kenney said he just wanted a good game and that he would root for whichever team will play Sweden for the gold medal on Sunday morning.

It turns out he'll be able to sport that red and white jersey one more time.

"We're hockey fans," Kenney said. "We just want to see good hockey."



Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257