The long wait is over for the U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team.
Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored in the sixth round of the tiebreaking shootout and goaltender Maddie Rooney stopped Meghan Agosta to give the Americans a 3-2 victory over Canada and the first Olympic gold medal for the women’s team since the inaugural women’s tournament in 1998 at Nagano, Japan.
The American players jumped off the bench, hurling their sticks and gloves in the air as they hugged each other and cried on the ice at the Gangneung Hockey Centre to celebrate a victory that showcased the two best teams in the sport Thursday before a spirited crowd. Canada had won the previous four Olympic tournaments, three of them at the expense of the U.S.
“This is probably a classic example of how hard it should be to win a gold medal,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.
Chants of “USA!” alternated with chants of “Go Canada Go!” as the overtime continued, with fans aware of the gold-medal possibilities on every foray up ice and every shot. The game was played at a breathtaking pace and with a physical edge that often exceeded the rules but was sometimes ignored by officials whose skills didn’t match those of the players. The U.S. killed a penalty in overtime, but just barely, sending the game to the decisive shootout.
Second-period goals by Canada forwards Haley Irwin and Marie-Philip Poulin — who both played college hockey in the U.S. — had given Canada a 2-1 lead. But a bad line change by Canada gave the Americans an opening, and they took advantage of it to pull even at 2-2 at 13:39 of the third period.
Monique Lamoureux-Morando, twin sister of Jocelyne, took a lead pass from linemate Kelly Pannek and got behind Canada’s defense, giving her time to go from her forehand to her backhand and then to the forehand again to lift a shot into the upper-right corner of the net.
“I’m digging this new necklace I got today,” Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said about her gold medal. “I’m not taking it off for a while.”
The U.S. players and team executives had focused on this game for the last four years, since its defeat at Sochi, creating a residency program in Florida that would allow players to practice and train together for months and retooling the roster to bring in young, swift skaters with the aim of increasing its speed. The team was fast and it got strong goaltending from 20-year-old Olympic rookie Rooney, who stopped 29 shots Thursday and yielded two goals in the shootout.
Capitalizing on the third of three straight advantages they gained in the first period, the U.S. women scored the game’s first goal.
Defenseman Sidney Morin, who was among the last players added to the U.S. roster in late November, made the goal possible when she controlled the puck in the left circle and launched a low shot on net. Hilary Knight, playing in her third Olympic hockey tournament, was in position in front of the net to redirect Morin’s shot past goaltender Shannon Szabados at 19:34 of the period.
As the players filed off the ice to their respective locker rooms, Canada coach Laura Schuler — who had been exasperated with the officials’ call of interference against Sarah Nurse on that third penalty — summoned the officials to the bench to chat before they left the ice.
Canada pulled even early in the second period. Blayre Turnbull deked past U.S. defenseman Lee Stecklein and sent a centering pass to Haley Irwin, who batted the puck out of midair and past Rooney at the two-minute mark.
Canada pulled ahead soon after, when Agosta took control of the puck in the neutral zone and slid a pass to an onrushing Marie-Philip Poulin, who went to one knee for a shot from the inside edge of the right circle that found room inside the left post at 6:55. Poulin, who played college hockey at Boston University, has been a nemesis for the U.S.; she scored the tying and winning goals for Canada in the gold medal game four years ago at Sochi.
The Americans couldn’t take advantage of a power play late in the second period, continuing their scoring woes against the better teams in this tournament.
In the end, none of that mattered.
Players draped American flags around their shoulders, pointed to friends and relatives in the stands and took selfies on the ice as the disconsolate Canadians looked on. The Americans hugged each other and Stauber, the former Kings goaltender who had been hired for just this purpose and just this moment.