SOCHI, RUSSIA— Canada made an amazing comeback the United Stateswished they could have held off. Coming back from a two-goal deficit with three and a half left in the third period, the Canadians forced overtime and won the gold 8:10 into it to beat the U.S. 3-2 at Bolshoi Ice Arena on Thursday.
The gold medal matchup once again had the United States facing Canada at the end in women’s ice hockey. The Americans have finished second twice since last winning the gold medal at the 1998 winter games in Nagano. Since then, the Canadian women have dominated the sport and are the defending champions from the Vancouver games in 2010. With Canada up one game at the games this year, the U.S. women will have to bring all they can to get ahead.
The Americans opened the first period with their best chance gaining a power play in the first two minutes. U.S. defender Anne Schleper went right after the net taking a shot high on the glove side, but Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados made the big save negating their lone shot. Canada went on their first offensive rush.
With American netminder Jessie Vetter with the same agenda her defense out front did their job to clear the puck out frustrating the Canadians that forced another penalty. Canada’s defense held their ground in the zone stopping five shots in the remaining minutes of the period while they created more scoring chances, but no change to the score. The U.S. outshot Canada 11-9, but couldn’t find those open shots to beat Szabados in net.
The second period began with play looking much like the first, but tighter as the opportunity to score got closer with the United States showing more offense than their adversaries. Half the game went by with the Americans taking hold of the defense as Canada was trying to clear the puck from their end. As Canada’s Catherine Ward tried to clear it out of the neutral zone, Jocelyne Lamoureux made a pass to captain Meghan Duggan to score the opening goal in the game.
It was Duggan’s first of the tournament and a major blow to Canada. A huge mistake by the Americans gave Canada a big chance to tie the game with two back to back penalties that were fortunately held off with blocked shots from the U.S. defense. Canada outshot the United States 8-5, as the third period became the critical point of the game where anything could happen.
Things did happen for the U.S. as they went on the power play in the first minute on a tripping call to Tara Watchorn. Pressure began to grow for Szabados while the Americans struggled to set up a play out front. With seven seconds left on the man advantage, Hilary Knight set up a shot near the crease where Alex Carpenter caught the stick to score the team’s second goal and the fourth of her time in the tournament. With a sizeable lead, the Americans recorded blocked shots protecting Vetter in the crease. Knight nearly made it a 3-0 lead as she skated ahead of the Canadian defense putting a shot on Szabados, but was stopped between the legs of the goaltender.
The Americans continue to turn up the offense on the desperate Canadian women who were still looking for their time to score. It came with 3:26 left in the game where the Americans left the center of the ice open where Brianne Jenner scored to cut the lead in half making it a game once more. They fought to keep the Canadians in their own zone with time falling off the clock.
Szabados was waiting to come off the ice to give her team a sixth man. They got their chance with the faceoff in the U.S. zone, but a shot from Kelli Stack nearly went into the empty net. “Missing the net was the worst feeling in the world” said Stack after the game. Time continued to fall off the clock, but the extra man made the difference as they tied the game with 55 seconds left. Canada’s Rebecca Johnston took the puck from behind the net to find teammate Marie-Philip Poulin with a shot behind the back of Vetter to shock everyone in the arena. Time finally expired leaving the United States with no choice to play in overtime. “We had them at the end up two goals under five minutes and they just pressed us hard a couple of bounces went there way and tied it up,” Duggan said.
The Americans got right to work putting shot after shot on the Canadian net trying to end the game while they could. It became a point of which goaltender would give up the game winning goal. The U.S. got their first major chance six minutes in as Ward was called for cross checking making it 4 on 3 for two minutes. They are 1-4 with a dozen shots taken to Szabados hoping to end it with the extra man. On a stop by the net minder, they committed an infraction to make it three on three for the duration of the earlier power play. The tide of power change as Knight had to take a penalty in order to stop a breakaway chance by Canada.
The United States went down two players in a rare moment where Canada made a fight at the net where the game came to a close. The game winner came to Poulin who scored from a pass from Laura Fortino giving the 22 year-old the second consecutive game winning goal in the Olympics. The aftermath of that goal was pure heartbreak for the American women as they have lost the last three times in meetings with Canada in the gold medal final. “At some point well be proud of these silver medals, but right now it hurts a little bit but we’re proud to be here and think we represented our country well.”