After over 70 minutes of play it came down to just one shot to decide who took home the gold medal from the IIHF Women’s World Championships.
Alex Carpenter scored her first goal of the tournament at the most important time for the Americans, banging the puck into the net after a goalmouth scramble 12 minutes into overtime.
“It could have taken over the number one spot right now. It was just an all-around great effort from everybody on the ice,” said Carpenter when asked where that ranks in goals scored in her lifetime.
It was a game that always seemed destined for dramatics.
This is the 17th gold medal meeting between the two countries. They have met in each and every championship game in the history of women’s hockey.
The teams are incredibly evenly matched and momentum shifted throughout the entire contest. Every time it looked like one team had the upper hand the other was able to storm back and look like they were the ones about to score at any second.
The first period started the way high-pressure games often do. Both teams sat back and made the simple plays, trying their hardest to avoid making a mistake that would give their opponents an advantage.
It was also clear that this would be a game unlike any other in the tournament. Both teams brought a physical edge that was not there in the earlier games. There was a scrum after every whistle and the refs were letting a lot more body contact go unpunished than usual.
It took until the nine-minute mark in the first period for the first clear-cut scoring chance of the game. Jillian Saulnier received a pass in the neutral zone and then put on a burst of speed that surprised the U.S. defenders, giving her a clear path to goal, but her shot flew just wide of the net.
Hilary Knight, voted as the most valuable player of the tournament by the media, was everywhere for the Americans in the first period.
Not only did Knight look dangerous every time the puck was on her stick but she also played a huge role on the penalty kill, blocking two Canadian shots in quick succession.
After a scoreless first period the teams somehow managed to take the intensity up another notch when they came out for the second. Team Canada in particular stopped playing a defensive trap and started forechecking at every opportunity they got, putting a lot of pressure on the American defenders.
That pressure almost paid off just three minutes into the period when Natalie Spooner separated an American defender from the puck and sent a pass out in front of the net to a wide open Marie-Philip Poulin.
Poulin’s shot was heading for back of the net before the American goalie Alex Rigsby managed to just get a piece of the puck, sending it wide.
The U.S. isn’t the reigning world champion for nothing, however. They were able to figure out how to deal with the Canadian pressure and spent a lot of time with the puck in the Canadian zone throughout the period.
The third period saw the tide begin to turn in favour of the Americans. Having had an easier route to the finals than Team Canada they appeared to have more energy as the game wound down.
After a Canadian penalty with just six minutes left to go, it was Emerance Maschmeyer’s time to shine in net for Canada. She made three saves in quick succession that left the capacity crowd that filled the Sandman Centre speechless.
That same crowd was doing everything they could to energize their team. From the time the clock showed just five minutes left in the game the crowd roared and leapt to its feet every time Canada had possession of the puck in the American half of the ice.
With just seven seconds left in the game Canada got their best chance to score in the period. A loose puck in the net found its way to the stick of Natalie Spooner and only a desperation hook from Monique Lamoureux prevented Spooner from scoring what surely would have been a gold-medal-winning goal.
As it was, Canada went into overtime on the power play.
With overtime being played 4-on-4, the power play advantage became even larger. The shorthanded team had just three players on the ice, leaving lots of room for the attackers.
Canada almost made that advantage pay off multiple times throughout their power play but some heroics from Rigsby kept the Americans in the game.
After killing off the penalty the Americans got their chance with the man advantage after Halli Krzyzaniak was sent to the box for holding with nine minutes left in overtime.
Maschmeyer was again able to answer the call in net for Canada making a couple big saves to see her team safely off the penalty kill.
After a combined 66 shots between the teams it was an innocuous-looking one that finally made the difference.
Lamoureux floated a shot on net from the point. Maschmeyer was unable to secure the rebound, and there was Carpenter standing in exactly the right spot to put the puck in the net and continue the Americans’ current run of dominance at the world championships.
Team USA has won three straight and seven of the last eight.
“I think it means we’re heading in the right direction as a program. We aren’t concerned about what other people are doing. It’s more self focus and where we are going as a group,” Carpenter said.