Hockey

Tim Wharnsby - Thursday Feb. 20, 2014 19:10 ET

Canada's win over U.S. at Sochi Olympics bizarre, to say the least

Veteran Hayley Wickenheiser plays hard in what might be final game

Canada's women after receiving their medals for winning gold in hockey at the Sochi Olympics
From left, Hayley Wickenheiser, Natalie Spooner, Tara Watchorn and Marie-Philip Poulin listen to O Canada after winning gold in Olympic women's hockey against the U.S. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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SOCHI – This was one bizarre hockey game.

Yes, there was a smorgasbord of strange happenings in Canada’s 3-2 overtime win against the United States in the 2014 women’s gold-medal hockey final on Thursday.

There was terrible officiating, highlighted by British referee Joy Tottman calling a questionable slashing penalty on United States forward Jocelyne Lamoureux. Then, moments later, a penalty shot was called when Hayley Wickenheiser was knocked off her feet while on a breakaway, but the referee then changed her mind.

There was a dramatic comeback from the Canadians that had no business materializing because of how one-sided the game was for 56 minutes, only to see a 2-0 lead for the United States disappear into the night.

There was a puck sliding toward an empty net with about 90 seconds remaining, that was shot down the ice only because the lineswoman interfered with Canadian defenceman Catherine Ward. If it was a goal, it would have given the U.S. a 3-1 lead. Game over. But Kelli Stack’s shot hit the post.

The Canadians took advantage. Marie-Philip Poulin scored with 54.6 seconds to send the game into overtime. Poulin checked in again in overtime after the Wickenheiser penalty shot was turned to a power play for Canada.

Did we mention this may have been the last game on the international stage for two of Canada’s greatest women hockey players, Wickenheiser and her long-time teammate Jayna Hefford?

They have played in so many big games together. They have celebrated so many wins together and helped each other get over all the heartbreak. Now they leave – at least we think they’re done – with their fourth Olympic gold medal to go with seven world championships.

There was a nice moment during the Canadian team celebrations when the 35-year-old Wickenheiser gave the 36-year-old Hefford an emotional embrace.

“We had a big hug and told each other we were proud of one another,” Wickenheiser said. “We have the type of relationship in which we can look into each other’s eyes and we know exactly what has to get done. Sometimes we’ll talk to each other on the bench during a game and say something like, ‘Let's calm this thing down.’

“I know that she’s going to show up for every game. I know she’s going to come through with big goals. I think she feels the same about me. We have faith in one another and that makes a big difference.”

The kids, Poulin and Brianne Jenner, scored the goals, and the outstanding Shannon Szabados was brilliant in goal. But Wickenheiser and Hefford still played key roles for the winning side. No forward played more than Wickenheiser’s 25 minutes and 37 seconds. She was on the ice for the tying goal and the game-winner. Hefford played on Canada’s top line with Poulin and Rebecca Johnston.

“I’m so proud of this group of girls,” Hefford said. “I think we trained so hard this year. We went through some tough times, some tough challenges. To finish the way we did was really pretty fitting for us.”

Neither Hefford nor Wickenheiser would commit to whether this was their last game and didn’t allow their thoughts to slip into reminiscence-mode as the game entered the final minutes.

“I was focused on the game,” Hefford said. “I was focused on winning the gold medal. What happens after this, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Wickenheiser had 11 family members and friends here to help her experience what could be her final Olympics, including her 13-year-old son Noah. Mom and son shared a moment before the game and on the ice after the game.

“I got a text from him before the game telling me to give him a high-five coming out of the tunnel,” said Wickenheiser, who showed her teammates the text. “The girls all laughed because he doesn’t like hockey.

“I wrote him a little note on a Gatorade package. He’s very proud of what happened and now he’s a happy boy. It’s kind of hit him now that he’s 13. He understands it. He’s been to [all four Olympic gold-medal wins] and I’m very proud of him.”

So what did the note say? “I love you bud. I’m proud and cheer loud.”

He did. She won. It was quite a way to skate into the sunset.

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