Canada is golden once again. When the boys failed to get the job done earlier in the day, the ladies came through, reclaiming the gold medal as world champions in women’s hockey at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games from Beijing, China in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
Facing off against its greatest rival, the United States of America, Canada relied on a strong start, some familiar offensive contributors and world class goaltending in finding its fifth Olympic gold medal all-time (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014). Captain Marie-Philip Poulin had two goals including the game-winner, Sarah Nurse set a new Olympic record, while Ann-Renée Desbiens turned aside 38 shots en route to the first place finish.
Having lost out to the same Americans in PyeongChang in 2018, Canada was quick to remind the world who the true hockey power is, jumping ahead to an early 1-0 lead, only to see the goal called off as a result of an American coach’s challenge for offside.
With a deflated Natalie Spooner back on the bench after thinking she had opened the scoring just seven minutes into the contest, Canada struck once again, and this time the goal counted. Just a handful of minutes after the Americans saw offensive dynamo Hannah Brandt hit the post from in tight, the persistent Canadian team scored from an offensive zone face-off play.
Poulin won the draw back to Claire Thompson, who immediately put the puck towards the goal. Nurse redirected it past Alex Cavallini for her fifth goal of the tournament. The point was also her 17th of the 2022 Olympics, tying Hayley Wickenheiser for the all-time lead in single tournament scoring (2006).
Then, with just 4:58 to play in the opening frame, Poulin’s strong offensive forecheck led to a stripped puck, a quick regroup and a goal, as the Canadian captain turned and fired a low wrist shot on net, beating Cavallini for her 16th Olympic goal and fifth of 2022.
Despite leading the Americans 2-0 through 20 minutes of play, Canada trailed slightly in the shot department, only to see that separation continue to grow through the middle stanza.
But it was Poulin who struck once again for the Canadians, scoring off a rebound on a three-on-one up ice. Nurse got the puck to Brianne Jenner, whose shot deflected to Poulin, and the rest was history. She became the first player – both male or female – to score in four different gold medal games. And on Thursday morning, she did so twice.
With Canada on a late-period power play, it was actually the Americans who got on the board, with sniper Hilary Knight collecting the puck and racing up ice, before beating Desbiens to cut the lead to 3-1. Entering the third period with 24 shots, USA turned up the heat once again, putting another 16 pucks on net in the frame.
With Cavallini on the bench for the extra attacker and Poulin in the box for tripping, Amanda Kessel managed to beat an out-of-position Desbiens, who, much like her teammate Blayre Turnbull, was operating on the penalty kill without a stick. The goal came with 13.5 seconds left in the game. But despite the heavy offensive attack, it was too little, too late for the Americans, who collectively wept as the final horn sounded.
The Canadians ended the game being outshot heavily 40-21, but stayed atop the scoreboard, winning against their fellow North American counterparts 3-2.
Finishing the tournament with 57 goals for, Canada’s next closest opponent was the United States, which ended its run at 30 goals scored, despite playing without star forward Brianna Decker, who suffered a knee injury in her very first game of the tournament.
With gold medals wrapped around their necks and flower bouquets in hand, the Canadian women stood together and sung the song they had been dreaming of, for some since 2018, and for many others, for a lifetime: O Canada.
On the day that both the Canadian and American national men’s teams got booted from quarterfinal play, it was their female counterparts who really put on a show. And coming out on top, as they so often do, were the Canadian women.