We should have expected that the gold medal game would go to overtime. Whenever USA and Canada play, the drama level is always high.
And after 20 years of agonizing waiting, after two consecutive Olympics where Marie-Philip Poulin crushed the dreams of the United States, despite strange cuts and World Championship boycotts and the worst first two periods of play the team had all Olympic tournament, Team USA skated home with the gold medal in a shootout.
Coming into this match up, Canada was perfect on the penalty kill. Hilary Knight parked her 5’10 frame in front of Shannon Szabados and tipped in the first goal of the game off a a Sidney Morin wrist shot. The goal came with about 25 seconds remaining in the first period. Knight was never in the blue paint but she was as close as she could get without actually committing an interference infraction.
It didn’t take long for Canada to answer, though. Just two minutes into the first period, Blayre Turnbull sidestepped Lee Stecklein like she was little more than a mild hindrance and found Haley Irwin at the side of the net, whose mid-air deflection beat USA goalie Maddie Rooney. A diving Morin tried to break up the play but just couldn’t quite get to it. It was a huge goal for Canada to shift momentum in their favor.
As happens with these games, USA and Canada traded chances. No team was really able to quite “set up shop” in the offensive zone. And as always with these games, Szabados builds a brick wall in her net and remarkably managed to shut the door on some very good shots.
Following Irwin’s goal, “Captain Clutch” came through to double her team’s lead. Morin had trouble handling a bouncing puck at the red line and like a thief in the night, Meghan Agosta swooped in and suddenly, Canada was going the other way. Agosta barreled her way into the zone and found the completely unmarked Marie-Philip Poulin, who beat a partially-screened Rooney.
USA struggled quite a bit under the pressure from Canada in the middle frame. They took two penalties and only drew one of their own, not to mention the two goals from Canada. There was plenty of fight left in USA, though, which made for a white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat showdown in the third period and then overtime.
Early in the third period, Canada and USA exchanged back-to-back opportunities, with both goalies coming up huge (aided in part by Poulin completely destroying Brianna Decker BUT SURE WE DIDN’T NEED TO CALL ANYTHING, REFS). USA coach Robb Stauber demanded five minutes for the egregious body check that the referee, standing two feet away, somehow missed. Alas, Poulin received no penalty whatsoever and the teams played on.
The rest of the period was pure track meet, with neither team really able to establish any kind of rhythm.
But Monique Lamoureux wasn't satisfied with the score. The recently converted defender-to-forward was in the right place at the right time, receiving a long pass from sister Jocelyne inside USA's zone, deking and fooling Szabados for the game-tying goal. This came after Canada missed a 2-on-1 and then took an ill-timed line change. By far the Lamoureux sisters were USA's best players all game long, so it's not surprising they teamed up to tie the game. The goal came with just under six and a half minutes to go.
After tying the game, USA was feeling it. They knew they could win. If Szabados wasn't completely remarkable, the game (probably) never would've gone to overtime. The last few minutes was blink-and-you’ll-miss-it action at both ends of the ice setting up an epic overtime sequence.
The overtime frame was electric, with USA dominating most of the play and keeping Canada on their heels, but they weren’t able to capitalize. Then, disaster - the US took a penalty with a minute and a half left, and Canada had a 4-on-3 to end overtime.
Somehow, they weren’t able to score and the 20-minute overtime frame came to a close.
And so to the shootout we went.
USA won the coin toss and elected to shoot second, so Canada sent out Natalie Spooner, who was stopped by Rooney, while Gigi Marvin whiffed on her shot but still managed to put the puck behind Shannon Szabados.
USA’s euphoria didn’t last long as Megan Agosta froze Rooney and sniped top shelf to tie the shootout up at one goal apiece. Hannah Brandt and Emily Pfalzer couldn’t capitalize on either of their shots for USA and Marie-Philip Poulin was stopped by Rooney.
And then, Melodie Daoust, who was named tournament MVP, came in clutch again for Team Canada, giving them the go-ahead goal on the fourth shot on the prettiest shot of the entire Olympic Games.
But Amanda #BestKessel tied it up and Rooney stopped Brianne Jenner, leaving the game on Hilary Knight’s stick. With the crowd going wild, Szabados stood tall and we went to the sudden death round.
Team USA won the coin toss again, but this time elected to shoot first. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, queen of our hearts and one of the all-tournament team winners, came out with a shootout move named after Britney Spears and gave the USA the lead once again.
It all came down to Rooney, the 20-year-old from Minneseota-Duluth who had proven the haters wrong game after game, and who played some of the best hockey of her life in the gold medal game. She stopped Agosta this time and the celebration began.
At the end of the game, the questions about grievances with USA Hockey, questions about roster changes, and doubts about systems were swept to the side. Nevertheless, all of these are still valid concerns. So too are the concerns regarding where the women’s game goes from here.
However, for today we celebrate another classic matchup that served as the golden trim to a Winter Olympics Tournament rife with historic accomplishments for all eight teams.