In a game of inches, all the United States needed to win their first gold since 1998 was about the width of a goal post.
Instead, said goal post stopped their chances, and instead sparked a furious comeback by Team Canada, to win Canada’s fourth straight Olympic women’s hockey gold medal in Sochi, keeping their grasp on the IHLC in the process.
In a relatively quiet game through the first 40 minutes, dominated by penalties and sharp goaltending from Jessie Vetter and Shannon Szabados, the final 20 proved to be some of the most intense and exciting in the history of women’s hockey. After a powerplay tally from Alex Carpenter had the U.S. up by two to open the third, the U.S. controlled the tempo for the next 14 minutes, just five minutes away from a surefire gold. Canada pulled slightly closer on a goal from Brianne Jenner with four minutes to go, but only a one-off slip from Jessie Vetter still meant a huge mountain for Canada to climb in order to equalize.
Never ones to back down from a challenge, Szabados was pulled with 90 seconds to go, and after a heart-stopping empty net shot by Kelli Stack ricocheted off the Canadian goalpost, Canada furiously scrambled back up ice to capitalize. With 55 seconds remaining in the game, Marie-Philip Poulin pounced on a rare rebound given up by Vetter to tie the game at two, Canada’s second goal in two and a half minutes. After Canada took a penalty for cross checking, the U.S. only had six seconds to capitalize before Jocelyne Lamoureux was sent off for slashing, putting the teams at 4-on-4.
As if two overtime penalties (in a Gold Medal Game, no less) was not rare enough, American Hilary Knight took a controversial penalty for taking down Hayley Wickenheiser on a breakaway just over one minute later, potentially saving the game, but putting the US at a 4-on-3 disadvantage. And not letting an opportunity so rare as an overtime 4-on-3 go by, Canada’s offense scrambled the US defence, and only 39 seconds after Knight was sent off, Poulin finished a furious back-and-forth pass play with Laura Fortino to rifle her second of the night past Vetter, putting Team Canada into the record books. For the second straight Gold Medal Game, Poulin scored twice (including both game winning goals), and propelled Canada to their third Gold Medal defeat of the U.S. in four attempts.
With the win, Canada also ensures they will hold on to the International Hockey Lineal Championship until the 2014 Four Nations Cup in November. The U.S. entered the Games as IHLC champions, after four straight exhibition wins over Canada in December, successfully defending in Sochi against Finland and Switzerland before losing to Canada in the preliminary round in a 3-2 loss on February 12. Canada defended the IHLC with a 3-1 win over Switzerland in the Semifinals, and then with their Gold Medal victory. This is Canada’s record 30th reign as IHLC champs, their 120th IHLC game against the U.S., and their fourth straight Olympics where they have left as champions (both with the IHLC and Gold Medal, of course) – for more, check out the IHLC @ Olympics & Invitationals page.
02:01 – PEN – Watchorn, body checking
06:13 – PEN – Mikkelson, roughing
08:01 – PEN – Knight, cross checking
14:04 – PEN – Watchorn, tripping
15:30 – PEN – Bellamy, holding
27:10 – PEN – Stack, hooking
31:57 – GOAL – Duggan (J. Lamoureux)
32:45 – PEN – team, too many players
34:14 – PEN – Schleper, cross checking
40:07 – PEN – Watchorn, tripping
42:01 – PP GOAL – Carpenter (Knight, Stack)
56:34 – GOAL – Jenner (Mikkelson, Larocque)
59:05 – EA GOAL – Poulin (Johnston, Irwin)
66:09 – PEN – Ward, cross checking
66:15 – PEN – J. Lamoureux, slashing
67:31 – PEN – Knight, cross checking
68:10 – PP2 GOAL – Poulin (Fortino)
W: Szabados (27-29)
L: Vetter (28-31)
SHOTS ON GOAL
9+8+10+4 = 31
11+5+8+5 = 29
Goaltenders: Charline Labonté, Shannon Szabados. Defence: Laura Fortino, Jocelyne Larocque, Meaghan Mikkelson, Lauriane Rougeau, Catherine Ward, Tara Watchorn. Forwards: Meghan Agosta, Gillian Apps, Mélodie Daoust, Jayna Hefford (A), Haley Irwin, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Caroline Ouellette (C), Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner, Jennifer Wakefield, Hayley Wickenheiser (A).
Goaltenders: Molly Schaus, Jessie Vetter. Defence: Kacey Bellamy, Megan Bozek, Gigi Marvin, Michelle Picard, Josephine Pucci, Anne Schleper, Lee Stecklein. Forwards: Alexandra Carpenter, Julie Chu, Kendall Coyne, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan (C), Lyndsey Fry, Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux, Monique Lamoureux, Kelli Stack.