GANGNEUNG,, Korea, Republic Of — Thirty-eight seconds separated Canada's Para hockey team and the gold medal the Canadians had been chasing for 12 long years.
But gold went to the Americans, and heartbreak to Canada.
Declan Farmer scored twice to power the United States to a 2-1 overtime victory over Canada, a thrilling game that was both a spectacular showcase for the sport and closed the curtain on the Pyeongchang Paralympics.
Moments after receiving their medals, Canada's veteran players put the gold-medal game, and the four-year journey to get to it, in perspective.
"This game was so much more than 45 minutes," said 33-year-old Billy Bridges, who scored Canada's lone goal. "It's unfortunate that our sport only has the showcase of the Paralympic gold medal game, and I really feel proud of the guys that we were in it. But there's so much more than that that went on today.
"I really feel like we showcased the sport. Unbelievable what these guys can do — on the white team and the red team today. Just unbelievable talent. I really hope that we can take what we did here today and know that we probably inspired a lot of people to get in the game."
It's the first time since 1998 that Canada's hockey program has left the Games with no gold medals.
The Para team's silver comes almost a month after the Canadian women lost a heartbreaker to the U.S. in the Olympic gold-medal game, and Canada's men's team was dispatched by Germany in the semifinals.
Canada's Para team, which last won gold in 2006 in Turin, came oh so close to the top of the podium. Bridges scored at 12:06 in the first, firing a pass from Ben Delaney into the top corner.
In front of a lively crowd that rivalled last month's Canada-U.S. final, the Canadians fought off a furious offensive onslaught from the Americans the rest of the way. But with just under a minute to play, Rob Armstrong hit the post on the Americans' empty net, then Farmer scored with 38 seconds to play to send the game to overtime, and the crowd into a frenzy.
"It's a game of inches," said Armstrong, who hung his head on his gloves for the entire medal ceremony. "That's just something you have to live with. Obviously it will be replaying in my head for a long time."
Farmer's game-winner came at 3:30 into overtime.
"When that game ended in overtime I think our average age on the ice was maybe 19 or 20, and it's important for those guys to not hang their head," captain Greg Westlake said on Canada's young stars.
"Those guys should be so proud of the effort they gave and the life lessons they've learned, being able to turn themselves over to a program, saying 'I'm going to commit to this, I'm going to work at this every single day.'"
The post-game locker-room, said the 31-year-old Westlake, was a flood of emotions.
"I think every guy hugged every single guy and was crying," Westlake said. "It had nothing to do with losing a gold medal, just sadness that this group won't be together again. You never keep the same team.
"I'm so proud of them. I just wanted to let those guys know I care about them, they're loved, and it feels bad today but there's gold medals in that room even if they don't know it."
Canada's Adam Dixon was named the tournament's top defenceman.
Babey, who took over the program in 2015 after 27 years at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, called the loss a "stinger."
"Thirty-eight seconds away form a gold medal, hit the post, puck goes down the other way, there's a scramble, and all of a sudden you're into a whole different scenario . . . bit of shock the way that happened so fast at the end there. it's hard to recover," said the 63-year-old coach.
"(Afterward) I thanked them for their efforts, and I was proud to be their coach. It's a sport play, it's a hockey play, one bounce goes the wrong way and all of a sudden you're on the short end of the stick, so to speak."
Canada, ranked No. 1 after last year's world championship victory, and the second-ranked Americans had never met in a Paralympic gold medal game. After their gold in 2006, the Canadians failed to reach the podium in 2010 in Vancouver, then had to settle for bronze four years ago in Sochi after a semifinal loss to the U.S. The Americans won gold in both Games.
Westlake said despite the colour of medal, this game will have made a difference back home.
"There's nothing to hang your head about going home and visiting a childrens' hospital, going home and doing a school visit, going home and going to galas, golf tournaments with a silver medal, and inspiring people and trying to tell people to get involved, and be active, and be a community leader," he said. "I don't think there's anything sad about that at all."
Host South Korea defeated Italy 1-0 the previous night to win the bronze.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press