Olympics Live: Medal tally and latest updates
Throughout the Beijing Games, the unchecked arrogance of Canada’s women’s hockey team was remarkable to all – and admired, furious and scared.
There were the humiliations of teams that would play for the bronze medal, the pissed off digs at rivals, the nuanced critiques of failed strategies to score on Ann-Renée Desbiens, the goalkeeper who made Canadian territory a fortress.
The Canadians proved on Thursday that it was all justified: they outscored the United States in the gold medal game, 3-2, and reclaimed the Olympic crown that the Americans snatched four years ago.
Canada’s victory was a display of brawny, teeming play, mixed with a few doses of luck and an angsty, furious ride that began with the Olympic defeat in 2018.
The outcome was the one the Canadians had been tiptoeing to predict. To them, a gold medal often felt less like redemption and more like the satisfaction of ever-higher standards.
“We play so well that when we play our way — and we don’t focus on other teams or who we’re playing — we’re unstoppable,” said Natalie Spooner, a forward on her third Canadian Olympic team.
Canada appeared to score about seven minutes into Thursday’s game when American goaltender Alex Cavallini deflected a puck and saw Spooner take it with a hard shot. The United States, however, disputed that Canada had been offside, an assessment officials confirmed.
“I owe you one,” Spooner told teammate Sarah Nurse on the bench. “I was offside”
Thirty-five seconds later, the goal arrived: after Canada won a face-off, Nurse caught a pass, turned and scored.
Canada doubled its lead later in the period on a shot from Marie-Philip Poulin, the Canadian captain playing in her fourth Games, and pushed it to 3-0 when Poulin scored again midway through the second.
Hilary Knight scored a shorthanded goal for the United States late in the second, promising the Americans would at least avoid the indignity of being sent off with a gold medal up for grabs.
A power play goal with 13 seconds left brought the final score closer. By then, however, the Canadian team knew their victory was assured.
“We just wanted to put a lot of pucks in there and have a lot of body, and I don’t think we’ve done a great enough job of that,” USA forward Abby Roque said.
Thursday’s spectacle was familiar ground, the sixth gold medal game between Canada and the United States since women’s hockey became an Olympic sport in 1998. The United States won the first Olympic title, but not another until 2018, when they won a match decided by shootout. it was seen, at least in Canada, as an aberration and not as the harbinger of a change of power.
Many meetings leading up to Thursday’s game suggested so. The Canadians won a preliminary round game in Beijing, 4-2, and went 4-2 in a pre-Olympic exhibition series in North America.
The teams were the undisputed titans of the Games. Going into Thursday, Canada had scored 54 goals, an Olympic tournament record, and had three women – Brianne Jenner, Sarah Fillier and Jamie Lee Rattray – among the top five scorers in Beijing.
The United States had recorded two shutouts and twice defeated Finland, which won the bronze medal on Wednesday night.
Led by Kendall Coyne Schofield, the captain and one of the fastest skaters in the world, and Knight, who on Thursday set the American record for most games played by a female hockey player at the Olympics, the United States United had a fearsome attack that forced rival goalkeepers to contend with a firestorm throughout the tournament.
But the Americans still struggled on Thursday to turn chances into goals. At the same time, they found a Canadian team willing — and able — to score quickly. In the first period, Canada tied the United States on shots with 11, a marked change from their last encounter, when the Americans had 16 attempts in the first period and the Canadians had only five.
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The United States eventually edged out Canada in shots, recalling the Canadian judgment after their first game that the Americans were only too happy to try to overwhelm their opponents with a barrage of shots that weren’t always good.
Still, it was a strategy that worked for most Games. But as time faded on Thursday, as the Americans rushed to a final soundtrack of slams, kicks and emptying their net with more than three minutes to go, it was clear which team had shown up. better.
Just as Canada had long claimed it would.