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Olympics Goalie Shannon Szabados hailed for performance in Olympic hockey final

Goalie Shannon Szabados of Canada makes a save during the Olympic women’s hockey final.

KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Canadians celebrated Shannon Szabados as a national hero on Thursday.

Speaking quietly to reporters in the aftermath of Canada's heartbreaking loss to the United States for Olympic women's hockey gold, her eyes brimming with tears, Szabados didn't feel like one.

"It's disappointing," she said. "You battle all game, the girls played well, it's tough when it goes to a shootout, a little bit different game than the team game on the ice. Tough one to swallow, for sure."

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The 31-year-old stopped 40 of 42 shots, including nine in overtime, in Canada's 3-2 shootout loss – and was the key reason Canada lived to see overtime and a shootout at all.

Despite playing just three games in the tournament, Szabados earned the IIHF Directorate Award as the tournament's top goaltender.

Her name was trending on Twitter after the game as Canadian fans praised the three-time Olympian.

"Shannon Szabados is a god damn legend too. Amazing athlete, and kept #Canada in it .... everyone back home is saluting you and your team!" tweeted Canadian country singer Brett Kissel.

The 31-year-old, however, lamented a season plagued by injuries.

Szabados dealt with undisclosed injuries while the Canadian women were centralized in training this winter, limiting her starts.

She played twice in an eight-game exhibition series against the Americans, although she made 34 saves in her hometown of Edmonton on Dec. 17 in a 2-1 win.

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Of 26 exhibition games the Canadian women played against male midget triple-A teams, Szabados played just two complete games and parts of three others.

"I played three games before I came here . . ." she said, then paused to try to control the flood of tears. She was unsuccessful.

A Hockey Canada media attache told her "Take your time. You don't have to if you don't want to."

"It was a couple different injuries that kept me out of the lineup all year," she said, her face twisting in pain.

A reporter asked: Why does it hurt so much to say that?

"Because it was hard not to be there for the girls all year, and then come down to the wire like this and not walk away with a gold medal," she said, and then was whisked away.

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After the game, Szabados posted photos on social media of herself wearing a cast on her left foot and thanking medical staff for helping her through rehabilitation this season.

Szabados has started for Canada in the last three Olympic finals, backstopping Canada to victory in 2010 in Vancouver, and then four years ago in Sochi, where she made 27 saves to help Canada win.

It was the first Olympic women's hockey final to go to a shootout. Monique Lamoreux-Davidson beat Szabados, sliding the puck under her glove, for the Americans' deciding shootout goal, and then American goaltender Maddie Rooney stopped Meghan Agosta to seal the victory.

Szabados made a beeline for the Canadian team bench, where she sat, head down. The TV camera found her parents Gary and Sharyl looking gutted in the crowd.

Canadian coach Laura Schuler called Szabados "outstanding."

"She really helped control the game," Schuler said. "Obviously it was a back and forth hockey game and when the pressure was put on us in the defensive zone, she really helped control the play. Her rebound control was excellent and really helped alleviate some of the pressure we were facing. She has such a calm demeanour about her, and she helped settle our team down."

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Former Canadian goalies Kim St. Pierre and Sami Jo Small immediately took to Twitter to praise Szabados.

"What a hockey game!!! Both teams showed what Women's hockey is all about!! ShannonSzabados you were once again amazing," St. Pierre posted.

"Canada's Hero! ShannonSzabados Thank you on behalf of the entire country!" Small wrote.

Szabados hasn't said whether Pyeongchang is her final Olympic appearance. Outside of Canada's national team, she's largely played men's hockey, including stints in the Southern Professional Hockey League with the Columbus Cottonmouths, where she became the first woman to play for a SPHL team when she signed in 2014, and the Peoria Rivermen.

She became the first female to play in the Western Hockey League, for the Tri-City Americans, in 2002 at the age of 16.

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