GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA — In the wee hours of the night, dreary-eyed ice hockey fans still awake in the western hemisphere were treated to a spectacle for the ages.
In dramatic shootout fashion, the United States’ Women’s Ice Hockey team captured Gold as the ladies defeated archrival Canada, 3-2, to claim its first title in 20 years at Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Olympics.
The last time Team USA Women’s Ice Hockey won the Gold Medal came in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, and similar to the tournament two decades ago, USA had to oust the Canadians to claim the top prize.
“It is everything for our country,” American coach Robb Stauber said. “I can’t tell you how happy I am for our players. We love them, it is unreal. I am just so thankful for the outcome. It was a thrilling final, it was unreal.”
Although labeled underdogs coming into the tournament, USA jumped out to a first-period lead thanks to Hilary Knight who broke a scoreless tie with her second goal of the tournament with 26 seconds left in the opening frame, assisted by Sidney Morin and Brianna Decker.
Canada came out of the interval a much more determined team and tied it up at 1-1 when Haley Irwin tipped a pass mid-air past Team USA goaltender Maddie Rooney just two minutes into the second period, assisted by Blayre Turnbull.
The Canadians took the lead five minutes later when Marie-Philip Poulin, who sealed USA’s fate in each of the last two Olympics, gave her country a 2-1 advantage at 26:55 when her wrister found twine. Melodie Daoust and Meghan Agosta were credited with assists on the goal as it looked like Canada was about to run its streak of gold medals at the Olympics to five straight.
But the United States’ Women had other ideas.
Down one heading into the what many assumed would be the final frame, Monique Lamoureux-Morando leveled the score with 6:21 remaining in regulation when she took a 40-foot, blue line-to-blue line pass from Kelly Pannek and broke in all alone on Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados. Skating slowly, the Grand Forks, North Dakota native, patiently out-waited the goalie before finding an open net, top corner, glove-side to tie the game at 2-2 and send it to overtime.
In an intense overtime for the ages, neither team could crack Rooney (29 saves) or Szabados (39 saves) sending the nail-biter to a shootout.
That set the stage for Monique’s twin sister, Jocelyne.
After trading goals, twice, in the shootout, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, skated in slowly showing forehand before going backhand past Szabados to give Team USA the edge. The Canadians still had a chance to retort, however, as Agosta lined up against Rooney in an effort to push the shootout one more round.
“I knew when that went in that Maddie was going to stop the next one,” Lamoureux-Davidson said.
Lamoureux-Davidson’s prediction came to fruition as Rooney denied Agosta as Team USA spilled out on to the ice in celebration.
“It’s going to be part of our legacy,” Team USA captain Hilary Knight said after the game. “The things we have gone through together on and off the ice, the characters, the group of women we have in this room, it’s quite incredible.”
Team USA team celebrated the Gold Medal win by draping themselves in American flags as they skated across the ice.
“I’m digging the new necklace,” Lamoureux-Davidson said after the game, with her medal around her neck. “Don’t think I’m going to take it off for quite a while.”
USA defeated Finland 5-0 to reach the Gold Medal game, while Canada blew past the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) by the same scoreline. The gold medal final was the second meeting of the Olympic tournament between the USA and Canada. The teams previous game in the group stage saw Canada defeat the Americans 2-1.
“It’s just hard,” Team Canada’s Jocelyne Larocque said. “You work so hard. We wanted gold but didn’t get it.”
Women’s Ice Hockey Bronze Medal Game
Finland and Olympic Athletes of Russia contested the Women’s Ice Hockey Bronze Medal Game. The two sides had met in the group stages with Finland coming out on top 5-1. In the bronze medal game, the Finnish Women’s team had more of a fight on its hand, however, as it narrowly defeated OAR by a score of 3-2.
The Finnish side raced out to an early two-goal lead through Petra Nieminen and Susanna Tapani, but OAR pulled a goal back less than three minutes after Finland’s second when Olga Sosina gave OAR hope.
Linda Valimaki notched Finland’s third, making OAR’s attempt at a comeback more difficult, but OAR would find the back of the net once more when Lyudmila Belyakova added a second goal on an OAR power play.
Despite a nervy finish, Finland held out in the end for the 3-2 win and the bronze medal. The win was Finland’s third ice hockey medal in women’s ice hockey.
“It was a big goal for us,” Jenni Hiirikoski Finland’s captain said. “On a good day, we have a chance against the U.S. and Canada. But this is what we wanted.”
Finland coach Pasi Mustonen spoke about being realistic in women’s ice hockey despite the team’s bronze medal success.
“We have to be realistic, the North American teams are still the top teams in the world,” Mustonen said. “It’s no question the two best teams are playing in the final. And the third and fourth teams played in the bronze game.”
Although OAR finished in fourth place, team coach Alexi Chistyakov spoke post-game about his pride in the team’s performance. Chistyakov told the press he hoped the team’s fourth place finish would change the current perception in Russia toward women’s ice hockey.
“I think that the games the girls played here as they fought for their country will nudge this male mentality and turn it upside down, at least among part of the population,” Chistyakov said.
The 2018 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament was the sixth edition of the event. The USA has now secured two gold medals since the tournament began in 1998.
Written by Drew Farmer / @DrewMFarmer
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Team USA with their medals as Canada loses in a shootout to the United States in the Olympic women’s hockey gold medal game at the Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung in Pyeongchang in South Korea. February 22, 2018. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
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