It wasn't the gold she and her teammates expected, but it was still a special moment for Molly Schaus last night when she became an Olympic medalist.

It wasn't the gold she and her teammates expected, but it was still a special moment for Molly Schaus on Thursday night when she became an Olympic medalist.


The Natick, Mass., native won a silver medal as the U.S. women's Olympic hockey team lost to Team Canada 2-0.


"My family will still be thrilled to see me to come home and share the experience with them, so there's no pressure from them, but it would have been an added bonus (to win gold)," said the 21-year-old Boston College student.


"It's a dream come true to bring a medal home to my family and friends and be able to share that with all the people who have gotten me here. I've lived in a couple of different places and played for a lot of different coaches and it's great just to know that all their hard work paid off," she said.


Although Schaus, a goaltender, didn't play in the championship game, she did make a major contribution to the team's success.


The Olympic rookie got the start in the tournament's first game, playing 52 minutes without surrendering a goal as the U.S. blew out China 12-1. She said she was "anxious-excited" when she took to the ice for the contest.


"I definitely had some butterflies before the game, like most, but as soon as the puck dropped it was a hockey game," said Schaus, who is majoring in human development with a minor in biology.


What made the experience particularly memorable was that Vice President Joe Biden was in the stands for the game, sitting with 1980 "Miracle on Ice" men's hockey gold medalist Mike Eruzione.


"You look in the stands and see those two faces, you know you have to perform. You can't let them down," she said. "It was pretty cool. And he was shaking our hands as we got off the ice. It was great to see him come out here and support us."


From the moment Schaus arrived in Vancouver, she said the whole experience has been a whirlwind of excitement. She described how special it was to go through "processing" at the airport hotel for the first time, where athletes get shopping cart loads of free clothes.


Then came the drive into the Olympic Village, which was very emotional.


"To wake up the next morning and hop on the bus and drive into the village, it really was a dream come true," she said. "Just walking through there and looking around at all the different buildings with countries' flags hanging, it was kind of a surreal experience and one that I'll always remember."


That was followed by another wide-eyed moment -- marching in the opening ceremony.


"Just marching with your team and wearing the outfit, it hit me that this is real. I got texts from my friends saying, 'I just saw you on TV' -- you get the idea the whole world really is watching."


She described the Olympic experience as a balancing act between "taking everything in" and appreciating the magnitude of the games while staying focused on the business of playing in the most important hockey tournament of her life.


"It's what we've been doing since we were 10 years old," said Schaus, who was one of 10 finalists last year for the Patty Kazmaier Award, which is the Heisman Trophy of women's college hockey. "So once you get to the rink it's a familiar feeling."


It's also a familiar feeling for the Americans -- and their Canadian arch rivals -- to beat up on their opposition. The two teams combined to outscore their collective opposition by a total of 86-4 (40-2 for the U.S. and 46-2 for Canada). As has happened so many other times in major international competitions, it came down to Canada against the United States for the gold.


Just as the two teams make each other better through their rivalry, Schaus said her hockey has improved dramatically just being on the Olympic team -- practicing day in and day out with the best players in America and playing in front of crowds that are much larger than she's used to at BC.


"Whether you know it or not you're getting better every single day. It's an experience you'll have for the rest of your life and you can draw on it if you need it."


She has taken a year off from her studies to play for Team USA, but will return to school next year to play her final season for the Eagles.


The MetroWest Daily News