Canada defeats U.S., 2-0, to win gold in women’s hockey

The frenzied crowd waved signs declaring “Hockey is Canada’s Game.”

The Canadians then took to the ice Thursday and proved that declaration true -- at least as far as the women were concerned.

Canada won its third consecutive Olympic gold medal, this time with a 2-0 victory over the U.S.

Marie-Philip Poulin scored both goals for Canada, but it was Shannon Szabados’ goaltending that was the difference. She made 28 saves and was named the tournament’s best goaltender after giving up one goal on 51 shots in three games.

“I looked up in the stands and saw a sign that said, ‘Proud to be Canadian,’ and that’s what I am today,” Szabados said. “My teammates were unbelievable. We played a great game, and this is an incredible moment.

“This rivalry will never end. It will keep going and going.”

Poulin scored both goals in the first period as she beat goalie Jessie Vetter, who had yielded one score in three tournament games coming in. The U.S. settled for the silver after taking the bronze in 2006 in Turin, Italy.

“We came here hoping to compete for a gold, and we got that opportunity,” U.S. forward Karen Thatcher said. “We didn’t necessarily come out with that, but we did win silver. It was a great hockey game. They’re a great team and we’re a great team.”

It was the second time in three gold-medal games that the Canadians beat the U.S.

Szabados was “fantastic,” Thatcher said. “She was really on her game, and hats off to her.”

Szabados repeatedly denied U.S. forward Monique Lamoureux and robbed Caitlin Cahow on a prime scoring chance.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” U.S. captain Natalie Darwitz said. “When you get down 2-0 against Canada in their own building, and now the crowd becomes a factor -- it just made it a little more tough for us.”

The fast-paced game was just another chapter in the rivalry between the teams, which has become more intense since the inaugural Olympic women’s tournament in 1998.

The U.S. won the gold medal over their northern neighbors during those Games in Nagano, Japan. Ever since, it’s been all Canada in the Olympics.

“I think we’re just as good a team as they are,” American defenseman Molly Engstrom said. “They got the two goals instead of us. We respect that team. They’re a great team. It’s a game. Life goes on.”

The party at Canada Hockey Place went on long after the fans had filed out, as many of the winners took to the ice and drank champagne and posed for pictures taken by teammates.

“This is the moment we’ve been working so hard for,” Canada forward Jennifer Botterill said. “It’s incredible. The people of this country have been amazing to us and supporting us, and it was fun to do it and share it with everybody.”