GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – A goal by Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson in the sixth round of the shootout gave the United States a dramatic 3-2 victory over Canada in the women’s gold-medal game at Gangneung Hockey Centre on Thursday afternoon.
The triumph was the second for the Americans in Olympic play, and first in 20 years, since the inaugural women’s tournament at the 1998 Nagano Games.
Canada and the U.S. are the only teams to win the gold in the short history of the sport at the Olympics. The Canadians had won the last four golds (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014).
Lamoureux-Davidson scored on a tricky play by taking a circuitous route on her approach before slapping the puck past Canada goalie Shannon Szabados to put the U.S. up 3-2.
U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney then stopped Canada’s Meghan Agosta to give the Americans the gold.
The game was an entertaining contest that kept fans riveted to the edge of their seats from start to finish. Calling it breathtaking might be an understatement.
“It’s everything for our country,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber stated after the win. “I can’t tell you how happy I am for our players. We love them, it is unreal. I am just so thankful for the outcome. It was a thrilling final, it was unreal.”
American defender Kacey Bellamy found it difficult to detail what the result meant to her.
“I can’t put it into words,” Bellamy commented. “This whole year is for everyone that came before us.”
Canada had a power play with 1:35 left in overtime after Megan Keller was flagged for an illegal hit, but couldn’t come up with the decisive goal.
Keller had the best chance for the U.S. in the extra period, skating in one-on-one against Szabados with six minutes left and firing a shot from point-blank range, only to have the goalie deflect it away.
The U.S. outshot Canada 9-7 in overtime and had a 41-31 advantage for the game.
Canada coach Laura Schuler acknowledged that the game was a stellar one.
“It’s hard. There are not a lot of words to describe how you feel, but you know it was a great game of hockey,” Schuler said. “This is what we expected, back-and-forth hockey. It was a battle until the end.”
Canadian forward Blayre Turnbull could not conceal her dismay at the loss.
“I’m upset, disappointed,” Turnbull said. “We did not come here for a silver medal and everyone can imagine what losing feels like. It is not a great feeling at all.”
Turnbull bemoaned the fact a battle this intense had to be decided by a shootout.
“That is how it works, but in my honest opinion a game like that should never be decided by a shootout,” Turnbull stated.
Gigi Marvin scored first for the U.S. in the opening round of the shootout. Agosta then tied it for Canada in the second round.
The third round was scoreless, before Melodie Daoust put Canada up 2-1 in the fourth round with a nifty move that ended with her scoring with one hand on her stick.
With the pressure on, Amanda Kessel scored for the U.S. to make it 2-2.
Hilary Knight had a chance to give the U.S. the gold in the fifth round, but was blocked by Szabados. Rooney then blocked a shot from Brianne Jenner and the stage was set for the sixth round.
Canada came into the final with a 5-0 record, having defeated the U.S. 2-1 in the last Group A preliminary-round game. The U.S. entered with a 4-1 mark.
The vibe of the clash changed after Canada went ahead 2-1 in the second period on a goal by Marie-Philip Poulin, and it appeared that scoreline might stand.
But Monique Lamoureux-Morando’s goal with 6:21 left in the third period tied it 2-2 and swung the momentum back to the U.S., which had a good chance to put the game away with four minutes left when Canada’s Emily Clark was sent to the penalty box for tripping.
However, the Americans were unable to capitalize on the one-player advantage.
Knight scored a power-play goal with 25 seconds left in the opening period when she deflected a shot from teammate Sidney Morin past Szabados to put the U.S. up 1-0.
Morin fired a shot from the point, where Knight had Szabados screened and was able to get just enough of the puck on the back of her stick to redirect it into the net.
The U.S. had three power-play chances in the first period and finally converted on the last one. The Americans outshot the Canadians 10-7 in the first.
Canada equalized two minutes into the second period on a brilliant play by forward Haley Irwin, who poked a pass by Turnbull out of midair and past Rooney.
Turnbull was moving up the right side along the boards when she deftly fired a pass horizontally toward the goal, where Irwin met it at exactly the right moment directly in front of Rooney.
Canada moved ahead 2-1 five minutes later when Agosta laid off a nice pass to Poulin, who fired it by Rooney from the left side.
The U.S. outshot Canada 12-9 in the second period.
Lamoureux-Morando scored off a pass from Kelly Pannek to tie it 2-2 with the U.S. mounting a furious late charge.
The Americans outshot their archrivals 10-8 in the third.
Canada forward Natalie Spooner said this defeat was especially painful.
“This is something you will never forget and will use for motivation going forward.” Spooner commented.
Smile Japan team members were on hand to watch the final. They finished the eight-team tournament with a 2-3 record, while notching the first two wins ever for Japan in Olympic play.