Tony Care – Thursday Feb. 20, 2014 14:52 ET
Canada’s women defend Olympic hockey gold in OT thriller
Canadians defeat U.S. for 4th straight Winter Games title
Team Canada celebrates after defeating the United States 3-2 in overtime to win gold in women’s hockey at the Sochi Olympics. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)
Thursday Feb. 20, 2014
The Canadian women’s team staged a late third-period rally, and then defeated the U.S. in a thrilling 3-2 overtime win Thursday at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi.
Marie-Philip Poulin scored two goals, including the Golden Goal in overtime with Canada on the power play.
The Canadians have now won four straight Olympic gold medals.
Poulin simply loves the big stage. She scored two goals at the Vancouver Olympics, lifting Canada to a 2-0 victory over the Americans in the gold-medal game.
But she saved her best heroics for Sochi. With Canada down 2-1 in the final minute of the third period and a sixth attacker on the ice, Poulin forced overtime after beating American goalie Jessie Vetter from the slot with 54.6 seconds remaining.
Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados rescued her team with several big saves in the extra frame before Poulin kicked off a national celebration when she buried a power-play goal past Vetter off a pass from defenceman Laura Fortino at 8:10 of the OT.
“It is the best feeling ever,” Poulin told CBC. “It’s like a dream come true. It’s unreal. We just wanted to play our game and it was such a team effort. We never gave up today.”
Szabados was brilliant in victory, making coach Kevin Dineen’s decision to start her in the final a smart one. A rookie with the championship team in Vancouver, Szabados made 27 saves for the victory.
Meghan Duggan and Alex Carpenter gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead, and it appeared a gold medal was within reach with less than four minutes remaining.
But Brianne Jenner began the rally with 3:26 remaining in regulation time. She made a nifty move to the slot and beat Vetter with a shot that went off U.S. defenceman Julie Chu.
“In the dressing room going into the third we were talking about boot camp and how this is the one that counts,” Jenner told CBC. “It’s our conditioning and heart and, you know, they played a great game. Kudos to them, but I’m so proud of these girls. This feels awesome.”
Poulin sent the game into overtime in the final minute as she was left alone in front of Vetter, who deflected the puck right to her Canadian counterpart. The 22-year-old made no mistake with her opportunity, beating Vetter with a quick shot.
“And Canada, if you didn’t know Marie-Philip Poulin after the Vancouver Games, you better know her now,” Hockey Night in Canada’s Cassie Campbell-Pascall proclaimed seconds after Poulin’s game-winning goal.
Poulin’s tying goal would not have happened if not for a lucky bounce seconds earlier. One official got tangled up with Canadian defenceman Catherine Ward, which allowed American skater Kelli Stack to send the puck toward an open net. The puck hit the far post, giving Canada a second life.
Another streak continues
Canada’s victory over the U.S. extended its Olympic winning streak to 20 games. The last time Canada lost was at the 1998 Nagano Games during inaugural the gold-medal final. The Americans defeated Canada 3-1 for their only Olympic title.
Olympic experience pays off
Campbell-Pascall added some clarity as to why Dineen started Szabados in the gold-medal game instead of Charline Labonté, who beat the U.S. in the round robin. As a rookie, Szabados was clutch in the final of the Vancouver Olympics, shutting out the Americans while playing a pivotal role in Canada’s third straight gold. That experience was enough to give Szabados the nod on Thursday.
Playing in pain
Despite playing with a broken right hand, Canadian defenceman Meaghan Mikkelson had a terrific game against Team USA. Mikkelson served a penalty in the first period but played a regular shift (21:44) on the Canadian blue-line and registered an assist.
Wickenheiser, Hefford top Olympic hockey list
Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford became the most decorated hockey Olympians ever. The Canadians have now earned five Olympic medals — four gold — surpassing 10 players including Russian goalie legend Vladislav Tretiak , Finnish great Saku Koivu and former Canadian forward Jennifer Botterill.
More honours for Wickenheiser
Wickenheiser will represent Canada as a member of the IOC athletes’ commission, following her election at the Sochi 2014 Olympics. The hockey star, who carried the Canadian flag into the opening ceremony at the Sochi Games, will serve an eight-year term.