NEW YORK (WFAN) — Ryan Callahan is soaking up the Olympic experience, one that could possibly end golden for the Americans.
The captain of the Rangers spoke to WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Thursday from Sochi and shared his thoughts on what to expect in Team USA’s highly anticipated semifinal matchup with tournament favorite Canada.
A win will send the Americans to Sunday’s gold-medal game against the winner of the Sweden-Finland semifinal. If the U.S. loses it will play the loser of the other semifinal for bronze on Saturday.
Callahan said the pressure is unbelievable.
“You have to have that sense of desperation and urgency. You can’t lose a game or lose two. It comes down to one game. It’s like a Game 7 and that’s how you have to approach it,” Callahan said.
Callahan, who has an assist and is averaging nearly 15 minutes of ice time in the tournament, said his adjustment to the international ice surface and style of play didn’t take long, but it did take a little while for Team USA to mesh.
“It’s one of the unique parts about this Olympics. Guys are battling against each other and all of a sudden they are teammates,” Callahan said. “You have to bond with them and come together with them in a shorter period time to have success. I think it’s something we enjoy. Hockey players, we’re all in the same mold. In real life, we are competing for our country. Everything else gets put aside and you do what it takes to help the team win.”
Four years ago in Vancouver the Canadians captured the gold, beating the Americans in overtime. Callahan said he’d be lying if he said that defeat hasn’t served as both motivation and a reminder.
“Yeah, it does. That’s in the back of our minds,” Callahan said. “We have a lot of guys returning from that Vancouver Olympics. That sour taste has never left our mouths and is something that has motivated us throughout this tournament. I expect a great game from them and you know what you are going to get from us. It should be another classic, hopefully.”
If the Americans win they could face Sweden, which would mean Callahan going up against Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers’ all-everything goaltender has been brilliant throughout this tournament, posting an insane 1.25 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.
“If it does come down to that and we have to play Hank, I’m not going to be shy to tell his secrets to the rest of the team. That’s for sure,” Callahan said.
Once the Olympics end on Sunday, Callahan will return to the Rangers, who are currently in second place in the Metropolitan Division. They will resume play on Feb. 27 against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks with their eyes on solidifying their position in the Eastern Conference playoff race. There’s a chance the team will struggle a bit following the long layoff, but Callahan said he would not trade his Olympic experience.
“We were on a good run there, playing some good hockey. Then you take this break and you gotta start up right where you left off. Everybody in the league is doing the same thing,” Callahan said. “But, personally, and guys I’ve talked to, it’s pretty special to come represent your country, so if you are willing to take that chance, to put on the country’s colors and represent something bigger that’s why we are part of the Olympics.”
Once back in the real world, the Rangers will likely have to deal with a distraction — Callahan’s contract. The soon-to-be 29-year-old forward and general manager Glen Sather have yet to meet eye to eye on terms, and moving Callahan prior to the March 5 trade deadline instead of possibly losing him to free agency this summer remains a possibility.
Callahan reiterated he really doesn’t want to go anywhere.
“I have said it previously, this is where I started; this is where I want to be — captain of the team. I’m really excited about what we got coming up here in the future with the Rangers,” Callahan said. “You can’t predict the future, but I hope everything works out.”
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