ROONEY, LAMOUREUX SHOOTOUT HEROES AS USA WINS FIRST OLYMPIC GOLD SINCE 1998
It would have been foolish to think the contest could have been anything else, but it’s safe to say that another USA-Canada Olympic gold medal game has produced another instant classic, one that was tight-checking, hotly contested and, of course, needed more than regulation to find a winner.
Once the puck dropped, it took nearly the entire first frame for either side to open the scoring, but a lack of discipline eventually caught up to the Canadians. Across the back half of the period, Canada’s Jennifer Wakefield, Jocelyne Larocque and Sarah Nurse each headed to the penalty box and it was the latter infraction that proved costly. After Team USA worked the puck high, Sidney Morin fired a shot that was deftly tipped by Hilary Knight and found the net behind Shannon Szabados with just 26 seconds remaining in the first. Penalty trouble or not, though, it was a marker that everyone watching could almost feel coming as Canada had been on their heels for much of the opening period and were in dire need of answer.
And two minutes into the second, Canada answered when Haley Irwin got her stick on a Blayre Turnbull shot, fooling Team USA netminder Maddie Rooney to knot the game at one. Canada’s attack wasn’t done there in the frame, however, as less than five minutes later a broken play in the neutral zone led to a counterattack that saw Marie-Philip Poulin rifle a Meghan Agosta pass home. Team USA very nearly had the equalizer before the frame was through, though, as Knight and Brianna Decker came within inches of connecting on a 2-on-1, stopped only by a Szabados pokecheck and a hard-charging backcheck by Poulin.
But in the third, Team USA got their second when a missed opportunity one way turned into a crucial goal at the other end. After a lengthy possession in the attacking zone, the U.S. got caught temporarily allowing Canada’s Laura Stacey to break in on a 2-on-1. Her shot was stopped by Rooney, who got a small piece with her blocker, which led to a Team USA breakaway mere seconds later. And in alone on Szabados, Monique Lamoreux-Morando, who was buzzing all game, made no mistake and drew the game even at 2-2 with little more than six minutes remaining. That tally was enough to send the game to overtime, making it a second straight Olympic gold medal game decided in extra time.
In the 20-minute, 4-on-4 overtime, USA was absolutely dominant, controlling possession for long stretches and earning a few great looks in the process, the best of which was a Megan Keller breakaway opportunity that Szabados stopped with her blocker. At the other end, Canada’s Rebecca Johnston came within inches of burying a power play chance in the dying moments of overtime. With neither team able to find the winner, though, the women’s gold medal was decided in a shootout for the first time in Olympic history.
Through five rounds, the two sides traded goals, but when it came down to sudden-death, shot-for-shot action, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson threw down an outstanding deke, pulled Szabados out of position and tucked home the go-ahead goal. Agosta had an opportunity to extend the shootout, but Rooney didn’t bite on a single fake, stuffing the attempt. Immediately after the save, Rooney raised her arms in triumph as she was mobbed by teammates with USA having captured Olympic gold for the first time in 20 years.
CANADA PREPARES FOR SEMIFINAL CLASH WITH GERMANY
One way or another, a Cinderella story is going to come to an end when Canada and Germany square off in semifinal action. For the Canadians, this Olympic run is the tale of a ragtag group made up of NHL castoffs, minor leaguers or players who’ve spent the majority of their careers overseas. Germany, meanwhile, look to continue the most unthinkable run of the tournament. They had the third-worst record during preliminary round play, yet have managed consecutive overtime victories to make the semis, first defeating Switzerland before pulling off the biggest upset of the tournament with a sudden-death win over Sweden.
In order to keep the run alive, the Germans will have to play their most disciplined game of the tournament and pick their spots. Canada enters the game boasting the tournament’s best power play, operating at 38.5 percent, and that could spell bad news for a German side that has been the tournament’s second-most penalized team and has a penalty kill success rate of 80 percent.
Another big story heading into the contest will be between the pipes where Kevin Poulin could see the most important start of his career after Ben Scrivens fell injured in Canada’s quarterfinal win over Finland. Poulin was excellent in helping Canada seal a 1-0 victory in that contest, and he’ll need a similar performance to help solidify a spot in the gold medal game.
CZECHS FACE CHALLENGE OF SLOWING OAR’S RED-HOT OFFENSE
Following their first contest of the PyeongChang Games, a 3-2 loss to Slovakia, there was the distinct feeling the tournament-favorite Russians — playing under the Olympic Athletes from Russia banner — were in for another Olympic disappointment. But OAR made up for early shortcomings in terms of both results and offense by turning their subsequent contests into blowouts powered by their star-studded lineup. No team has scored more than OAR, who have 20 goals through four outings, and that’s what the Czech Republic, who won Group A, will be up against as they attempt to punch their ticket to the gold medal game.
Slowing down the OAR offense is going to fall on team defense and the netminding of Pavel Francouz, who has been excellent throughout the competition. No goaltender remaining in contention for gold has a better save percentage than Francouz’s .940 mark, and the Czech starter has only been beaten six times in four games thus far. And if the OAR offense is limited, the Czechs would be in just their kind of game. The Czech Republic have won all but one of their games by a one-goal margin, with victories over Canada and Team USA coming by way of a shootout.
1. Maddie Rooney (USA): Stopped 29 of 31 shots and four of six in the shootout.
2. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson (USA): Was everywhere during regulation and overtime before netting the shootout winner.
3. Shannon Szabados (CAN): Made 40 saves and held Canada together while USA dominated possession.
Friday, Feb. 23
OAR vs. Czech Republic (M), 2:40 a.m. ET — Semifinal
Germany vs. Canada (M), 7:10 a.m. ET — Semifinal
Saturday, Feb. 24
TBD vs. TBD (M), 7:10 a.m. ET — Bronze Medal Game
TBD vs. TBD (M), 11:10 p.m. ET — Gold Medal Game