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Olympic gold medal game gives Marie-Philip Poulin more achievements to celebrate, but it was defence that won the day – and a special bond between players

The Canadian women's hockey team, including Marie-Philip Poulin at left, celebrate with their gold medals at the Beijing Olympics on Thursday after a 3-2 victory over the United States.Annegret Hilse/Reuters


Each time Marie-Philip Poulin scored, she smiled blissfully, then pointed to another teammate as if to deflect all the credit from herself and shine it on someone else. Then Captain Clutch would open her arms wide and welcome in the jubilant hugs.

Ms. Poulin, by now the world’s most feared female hockey player, and the country’s most beloved, added two more goals to her remarkable career in Canada’s 3-2 win over their archrival from the United States to take women’s hockey gold at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

But it was never all about Ms. Poulin, and that was precisely why Team Canada thrived. Everybody mattered. The team was superbly talented, but also unique in other ways. The Canadians bought into a different style of play – all five players working interchangeably regardless of position. They leaned on the resiliency they earned during the pandemic, and they had the time of their lives.

Canada players celebrate a goal.Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Canada’s prolific offence earned much of the credit for its Olympic success. But when the Americans scored to make it a one-goal game with 12 seconds left, it was the defence that held them off and secured the gold medal.

The team’s roster was expertly built by former Olympian-turned-manager Gina Kingsbury. It was a group of players who regularly danced together to the same Missy Elliott song Lose Control since they took a hip-hop class over Zoom while bubbled in Calgary before leaving for Beijing. The women bonded during a pre-Olympic trip to Finland, they did pottery together and they made a habit of handing the microphone to the rookies so their voices would be heard and valued.

“Off the ice, that’s something that we really valued – creating a culture as a group,” Ms. Poulin said. “There was always different news happening day in and day out – playing with masks [versus the Russians], things getting cancelled and, to be honest, the resiliency of this group showed up.”

Canada had 15 goal scorers in Beijing, and every single skater registered at least one assist.

“We said that we wanted everyone on this team to be leaders,” said assistant captain Brianne Jenner, who scored a tournament-high nine goals. “We didn’t want it to be top down. We wanted to be egalitarian, that everyone has a voice.”

This was her fourth Olympics, and Ms. Jenner was asked where this team ranked for her.

“No. 1,” she said. “It was a long haul of silvers, and a lot of soul searching in the program. This group didn’t really shy away from that. We were like, ‘Let’s be bold, let’s be brave as well, and see what we can do.’ ”

Team Canada skate toward photographers with their medals, then take part in a video call.David W Cerny and Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Natalie Spooner netted a goal for the Canadians seven minutes into the game and the U.S. challenged it. Video review showed the lineswoman missed Sarah Nurse offside and the goal was called back.

Team Canada looked completely unbothered. Ms. Nurse made up for it by scoring less than a minute later.

Ms. Poulin added Canada’s second goal by robbing the puck clean off the stick of American Kelly Pannek in the U.S. zone. The captain took a breezy stride into the slot – it has truly become her office – and she rifled the puck into a top corner.

Any Canadian or American Olympian in Beijing who could get to the Wukesong Sports Centre for this game did. Chef de Mission Catriona Le May Doan sat banging a drum with a large contingent from the Canadian Olympic Committee. At an Olympics with limited spectators, this was as close to lively as it got inside a venue.

Ms. Poulin was in just the right spot once again in the second period to score Canada’s third goal. When a Jenner shot bounced off the U.S netminder, Ms. Poulin was on patrol and popped it into an opening.

These two teams have met in six of seven Olympic gold medal finals. The U.S was the reigning Olympic champ, and Canada was the reigning world champ.

Jesse Compher of the United States clashes with Erin Ambrose of Canada.Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The biggest show of animosity in the game came from a little tussle in front of the Canadian net, when American Jesse Compher got pushy with goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens and blueliner Erin Ambrose shoved her way into the ruckus to protect her goalie.

Maybe that incited the Americans, because they scored shortly after. It was a shorthanded goal no less, by four-time Olympian and assistant captain Hilary Knight. Suddenly it felt more like a typical Canada-U.S. game.

The Americans had plenty of scoring opportunities in the third period. They rang a puck off the crossbar. Canada’s most experienced defender, Jocelyne Larocque, went to the penalty box for hooking, but the U.S. didn’t get off a single shot while up a player.

Then, in the final minute and a half, Ms. Poulin gave the Americans a gift: she took a two-minute tripping penalty.

The U.S. women crashed the net harder during that power play than they had all game, peppering Ms. Desbiens with pucks and causing total commotion. She lost her stick, and with bodies colliding, American Amanda Kessel swatted the puck into the net.

With just 12 seconds left, the U.S. had made it a one-goal game. But it was too little too late. Just as they had in the preliminary-round game, the Americans outshot the Canadians – 40-21 on this day. But Canada was the winner.

Abby Roque of the United States looks dejected as Canada players celebrate victory.Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

While the score was close, the Americans weren’t at their finest in this game. They’d faced repeated setbacks in Beijing. Brianna Decker, one of their best players, was in a cast after breaking a leg in the first game of the tournament. Top U.S. goalie Alex Cavallini admitted after the game that she’d torn a medial collateral ligament last month and wasn’t 100 per cent in Beijing.

“I don’t think we scratched the surface with our ability to play,” Ms. Knight said of the gold-medal game. “I’ve seen us practise. I’ve seen us play. I’ve seen us put together 60 minutes and that just wasn’t it.”

As it always does in this rivalry, the game ended with both teams completely spent, one squad tossing its helmets and gloves into the air jubilantly, while the other collapsed to the ice in gutted defeat.

Ms. Decker, who chose to stay in China with the American team instead of returning to the U.S. with her broken leg, put on her jersey and received her silver medal while resting the broken leg on a scooter.

Team USA's Kelly Pannek, left, and Savannah Harmon help Brianna Decker, middle, on the ice.Petr David Josek/The Associated Press

For Canada, the victory was a balm for the tough past few years, not just the lost gold medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. There were so many other speed bumps – Canada’s uncharacteristic bronze medal at the 2019 world championship, the collapse of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, pandemic-related training interruptions and the International Ice Hockey Federation cancelling women’s events while forging ahead with the men’s.

Ms. Poulin has now scored seven of Canada’s past 10 goals in gold-medal finals at the Olympics. Dating back to her first of four Olympics in 2010, Ms. Poulin has lit the lamp in every Olympic final.

Women’s hockey, ultimately, used the Olympic spotlight to prove once again that it is getting faster, stronger and more entertaining – especially when the two rivals face off.

U.S. captain Kendall Coyne Schofield broke down in tears in her postgame interview when asked what this now means for women’s hockey, a reminder that women still can’t earn a living wage playing professionally.

“Women’s hockey cannot be silent after these two weeks,” Ms. Coyne Schofield said. “It can’t end at the Olympic Games.”

Brian Snyder/Reuters


Olympic women’s hockey: More from The Decibel

Before the Canada-U.S. gold medal match, sports reporter Rachel Brady spoke with The Decibel about the history of the hockey rivalry – and predicted what the final score would be. Listen to find out how close she was to the mark. Subscribe for more episodes.

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How is hockey played at the Olympics? A visual guide

BEIJING 2022

SCHEDULE

Qualification

Medal

FEBRUARY

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

A fast, fluid and exciting team sport, ice hockey draws big crowds thanks to the drama and tension of the matches. The sport originated in Canada, migrated south to the United States during the 1890s and spread to Europe at the turn of the century.

Ice hockey made its debut at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp with a men's competition but moved permanently to the winter programme at Chamonix 1924. Women’s ice hockey made its debut at Nagano 1998.

THE GAME

Three 20-minute periods of play. Teams change ends after each period.

TWO TEAMS

Six-a-side

Helmet

Visor

Gloves

Shin pads

worn under socks

Puck

Skates

THE RINK

Minimum standard for international contest is 60 metres in length and 29 metres in width

Right

Defence

Goalie

Goal

1.2m high by

1.8m wide

Right

Wing

Left

Defence

Center

Left

Wing

Tempered glass

or acrylic rink shields

EQUIPMENT

Sticks

Made of wood, aluminium or plastic

Player’s stick

163 cm

Goalie’s stick

Puck

Made of vulcanised rubber or other approved material

7.6 cm

THE GOALIE

One of the most valuable players on the ice. Shots on goal regularly exceed 100 mph so goalies must wear special equipment to protect them from direct impact.

Shots on goal

Five key areas the goalie must cover

1

Stick side high

Glove side high

3

2

4

4

5

Stick side low

The five hole

Glove side low

PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

1

Helmet with mask

2

Blocker

A rectangular pad with a glove to hold the stick. Protects the wrist area and used to direct shots away from goal

3

Trapper

Catching glove

4

Leg pads

5

Goalie stick

Thick flat edge to better cover the “five hole”

SOURCE: REUTERS

BEIJING 2022

SCHEDULE

Qualification

Medal

FEBRUARY

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

A fast, fluid and exciting team sport, ice hockey draws big crowds thanks to the drama and tension of the matches. The sport originated in Canada, migrated south to the United States during the 1890s and spread to Europe at the turn of the century.

Ice hockey made its debut at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp with a men's competition but moved permanently to the winter programme at Chamonix 1924. Women’s ice hockey made its debut at Nagano 1998.

THE GAME

Three 20-minute periods of play. Teams change ends after each period.

TWO TEAMS

Six-a-side

Helmet

Visor

Gloves

Shin pads

worn under socks

Puck

Skates

THE RINK

Minimum standard for international contest is 60 metres in length and 29 metres in width

Right

Defence

Goalie

Goal

1.2m high by

1.8m wide

Right

Wing

Left

Defence

Center

Left

Wing

Tempered glass

or acrylic rink shields

EQUIPMENT

Sticks

Made of wood, aluminium or plastic

Player’s stick

163 cm

Goalie’s stick

Puck

Made of vulcanised rubber or other approved material

7.6 cm

THE GOALIE

One of the most valuable players on the ice. Shots on goal regularly exceed 100 mph so goalies must wear special equipment to protect them from direct impact.

Shots on goal

Five key areas the goalie must cover

Stick side high

Helmet with mask

Glove side high

Trapper

Catching glove

Leg pads

Glove side low

Goalie stick

Thick flat edge to better cover the “five hole”

Stick side low

The five hole

Blocker

A rectangular pad with a glove to hold the stick. Protects the wrist area and used to direct shots away from goal

SOURCE: REUTERS

BEIJING 2022

FEBRUARY

SCHEDULE

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

Qualification

Medal

A fast, fluid and exciting team sport, ice hockey draws big crowds thanks to the drama and tension of the matches. The sport originated in Canada, migrated south to the United States during the 1890s and spread to Europe at the turn of the century.

Ice hockey made its debut at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp with a men's competition but moved permanently to the winter programme at Chamonix 1924. Women’s ice hockey made its debut at Nagano 1998.

Helmet

Visor

THE GAME

Three 20-minute periods of play.

Teams change ends after

each period.

TWO TEAMS

Six-a-side

Gloves

Shin pads

worn under socks

Skates

Puck

THE RINK

Minimum standard for international contest is 60 metres in length and 29 metres in width

EQUIPMENT

Sticks

Made of wood, aluminium or plastic

Right

Defence

Goalie

Player’s

stick

Goal

1.2m high by

1.8m wide

163 cm

Right

Wing

Goalie’s

stick

Left

Defence

Center

Left

Wing

Puck

Made of vulcanised rubber or other approved material

Tempered glass

or acrylic rink shields

7.6 cm

THE GOALIE

One of the most valuable players on the ice. Shots on goal regularly exceed 100 mph so goalies must wear special equipment to protect them from direct impact.

Shots on goal

Five key areas the

goalie must cover

Stick side high

Helmet with mask

Goalie stick

Thick flat edge to better cover the “five hole”

Glove side high

Trapper

Catching glove

Leg pads

Blocker

A rectangular pad with a glove to hold the stick. Protects the wrist area and used to direct shots away from goal

Glove side low

The five hole

Stick side low

SOURCE: REUTERS

(Return to top)

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