Sarah Nurse was poised to jump over the boards to celebrate – on at least three separate occasions.
A dominant Canada had been coming in waves throughout overtime of a knife-edged quarter-final at the women’s world hockey championship Thursday.
Sweden goaltender Emma Soderberg was there at every turn in the 3-on-3 extra period, denying chance after chance off Canadian sticks, including a handful of jaw-dropping saves on captain Marie-Philip Poulin.
Nurse headed back out for another shift, and kept her country on course for another gold medal.
The star forward buried her second goal of the game at 4:26 of OT as Canada picked up a nervy 3-2 victory over the feisty Swedes to advance to the tournament semi-finals.
“That was crazy,” Nurse said. “We all took a deep breath going in overtime.”
The Hamilton, Ont., product received a cross-ice pass from Sarah Fillier on the deciding sequence before ripping a shot past Soderberg’s ear for her fourth goal of the tournament.
“Some days, you feel like you don’t have it,” Nurse said. “But today wasn’t one those days. It just felt like it was going to come.
“We just had faith in each other and our game plan.”
Canada’s script, however, was far from perfect.
Coming off a late blown 3-1 lead against the United States in Monday’s 4-3 shootout victory, the team in red watched the Europeans, who had just 14 shots in regulation and rarely threatened with the sides playing 5-on-5, score with 9.2 seconds left in the third period to force extra time.
“Sticking together and being resilient,” Poulin said of the message in that crucial moment.
“Happy how we responded.”
Blayre Turnbull had the other goal for Canada, which will face Switzerland in Saturday’s semi-finals. Emerance Maschmeyer registered the victory with 12 saves.
“This is probably one of the best teams that I’ve been on at managing the highs and lows,” Nurse said. “It’s something that we’ve talked about so many times.
“Going into overtime, we knew that we had it.”
Canada improved to 11-0 all-time at the worlds against Sweden – with a combined 80-8 score – but it was far from easy.
The gap between the powerhouse North Americans in women’s hockey and the rest of the world has clearly narrowed.
Sweden lost 11-0 to Canada in the quarter-finals of the Beijing Olympics before falling 3-0 at the same stage of the 2022 worlds in September.
“Other countries are good, they’re developing,” Nurse said. “That’s something that we’ve been trying to say and preach for years.
“Everybody needs to put a little respect on the countries in Europe and not solely focus on Canada and U.S.A.”
That might be true, but the Swedes had no business being in Thursday’s game given the gulf in talent.
“We’re coming closer,” said head coach Ulf Lundberg. “We’re working hard.”
Hilda Svensson, with a goal and an assist, and Lina Ljungblom scored for the Swedes. Soderberg took the loss despite a 51-save effort.
“We’ve got to be proud,” Lundberg added. “Canada are really good team and we had a really good performance.
“The pressure was all on Canada.”
Switzerland downed Japan 5-1 in Thursday’s late game to book a spot in the semis against Canada.
The U.S. will meet Czechia for the other berth in Sunday’s gold-medal game. The Americans beat Germany 3-0 in the quarters Thursday, while the Czechs topped Finland 2-1.
Canada is looking for its third world title in less than 20 months after snapping a U.S. run of five straight. The Canadians also beat their rival for gold at the 2022 Olympics.
The 5 p.m. ET puck drop made for a bit of a late-arriving crowd Thursday, but some fans at the suburban CAA Centre took advantage of temperatures that hit 27 Celsius by tailgating in the parking lot.
The hosts opened the scoring just over eight minutes into the first on a terrific rush from Turnbull.
The Canadians expected a physical encounter against Sweden, and that’s what they got.
Hanna Olsson levelled Canada’s Laura Stacey on a Swedish power play in the middle period, but was penalized for an illegal hit that eventually led to Nurse’s breakthrough at the other end.
With Sweden trying to kill off the final seconds of Olsson’s infraction, she fired upstairs on Soderberg for a 2-0 lead.
The Swedes got to within one after Turnbull took a penalty for an illegal hit when Ljungblom beat Maschmeyer for her country’s first goal against Canada at the worlds since 2004.
The Canadians were shot out of a cannon to start the third – Poulin hit the crossbar seven minutes in – before Sweden killed another illegal hit penalty to stay within one.
Fillier came close to making it 3-1 with five minutes left in regulation, but the puck stayed out to set the stage for the late drama.
Svensson then tied it on a late scramble to push Canada to the brink of an unfathomable exit, but Nurse stepped up to cap another dramatic moment in women’s hockey lore.
“You trust your instincts,” she said. “You’ve been playing hockey for 20 years. Trusting your instincts, trusting your shot.
“And trusting your decision-making.”
Nurse’s decision with the puck turned out to be the right one.
And Canada could finally exhale.