Analysis American hockey women deserve to be Olympic champions

U.S. dominated gold-medal game against Canada from puck drop

By Mike Brophy, CBC Sports

The two best teams in the world made it to the gold-medal game, as everyone expected, and the best team won.

That was not quite so expected in Canada, but surely anticipated and appreciated in the United States.

Canada has a win-or-bust mentality when it comes to hockey.

Nevertheless, the United States, the world's No. 1-ranked women's hockey team entering the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, survived a thrilling gold-medal final Thursday, beating Canada 3-2 in a shootout.


"It is everything for our country," said U.S. coach Robb Stauber, who played goalie for the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres in the NHL. "I am just so thankful for this outcome. It was a thrilling final. I am just so happy for our players."

The United States has dominated Canada in the four years between this Olympics and Canada's stunning 3-2 overtime victory at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

Canada owned Olympics

What gave Canada hope for a fifth straight Olympic gold medal was the fact it had beaten the United States in the last six games leading up to the gold-medal game.

When you're hot, you're hot.

The Olympic Games, ever since an unexpected gold-medal loss in 1998, have been Canada's turf. The U.S. kicks butt in other international tournaments, but Canada owns the Olympics.

Until now.

Team USA owned this game from the puck drop.

Four years after it blew a 2-0 lead late in the final game in Sochi, the U.S. showed relentless grit and battled back from a 2-1 deficit to capture its first gold medal in Olympic women's hockey in 20 years.

Not that it was an easy game.

The United States dominated regulation time, but Canada, with its reputation for rising to the occasion, seemed to hold the trump card.

The USA led 1-0 after the first period, but Canada carried a 2-1 lead into the third.

Monique Lamoureux-Davidson of the U.S. forced overtime with a goal at 13:39 of the third period.

With each team having scored twice in the first round of the shootout, following 20 minutes of scoreless 4-on-4 overtime, Team USA's Jocelyne Lamoureux-Morando scored on a deke to her forehand to give her country the victory.

Hilary Knight also scored for the United States, with Sidney Morin, Brianne Decker and Kelly Pannek assisting on one goal each.

Haley Irwin and captain Marie-Philip Poulin responded for Canada, with Meghan Agosta, Melodie Daoust and Blayre Turnbull registering helpers.

1-game showdown

Everybody knew going into the 2018 Games it would come down to a one-game showdown between Canada and the United States. When the two teams faced off in the preliminary round, Canada prevailed 2-1, but the United States held a wide territorial advantage and outshot Team Canada 45-23.

That gave Team USA hope, especially considering the history between the two countries.

Since women's hockey was introduced to the Olympics in 1998, Canada and the United States had met five times in the gold-medal game. Despite the fact Canada won the previous four Olympic titles after the United States won the initial tournament in 1998 in Nagano, it has been a ridiculously close series.

Canada held a 5-2 record, but had only outscored the United States by a single goal — 18-17. In gold-medal games, Canada was 4-1, but had only outscored Team USA 9-7.

So now Canada is 5-3 in head-to-head competition with the total score of 20-20.

Canada elected to start veteran Shannon Szabados in goal. Szabados has not played a lot this season because of injuries, but was in goal for Canada's previous two gold medal-winning games, in 2010 in Vancouver and 2014 in Sochi.

Szabados had played just eight games leading up to the Olympics this season because of injuries, but was spectacular in the gold-medal game. Without her stellar performance, the game never would have gone beyond regulation time.

The United States opted to start 20-year-old rookie Maddie Rooney. She had been America's best goalie through the Games leading up to the Olympics, and despite her youth, Stauber felt comfortable playing her in such a monumental contest.

Turns out he was right.

Rooney shut the door when she needed to and gives America great hope for the future.

"It's pretty amazing," said Lamoureux-Morando. "It's something we've worked for our entire lives. To be able to come away with a win, to come from behind like we did, is something special."

Finland won the bronze medal with a 3-2 win against the Olympic Athletes from Russia.

It appears women's hockey is on solid ground as the sport moves on.

The 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing will include 10 teams, two more than this year's tournament.