The Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team provided a “where were you when” moment today as they defeated the American side 3-2 in overtime. But oh, it was so much more dramatic than that.
The US started quick on Canada and netminder Shannon Szabados, who would later figure in an even greater role later in the game, had to make a couple of good saves very early in this game or the USA could have been up 1-0 or 2-0 a few minutes in. The problem was exacerbated by Canada taking a couple of early penalties and though the US failed to convert on those chances, it was obvious that the American power play was not to be trifled with; the puck movement and the ability to get shots to the net provided some very nervous moments for Team Canada.
After a scoreless first period, Canada had the majority of the chances through the first half of the second period, but then the Americans broke through on a top corner snipe shot by Meghan Duggan. With Szabados screened, Duggan went top glove and put the States on the board.
The third period started with a 1-0 US lead and Tara Watchorn took her third penalty of the game very early on. The Canadians were tempting fate considering how good the US power play looked all day and it eventually caught up to them as Alex Carpenter found herself alone at the side of the net and deflected a nice cross-ice pass past Szabados. With just 17 minutes to go in the game, the States had a 2-0 lead.
It was back and forth a bit for the next 10 minutes and it wasn’t looking like Canada was ever going to break through. This isn’t just hindsight, either:
With under three and a half minutes left, the tide turned.
Canada’s Brianne Jenner came streaking down the left side and took a shot that was partially deflected off her stick. The puck was going wide but ricocheted off a US defender and in the net. It was a 2-1 game and all of a sudden this game wasn’t on cruise control anymore.
With under two minutes left and a face off in the US zone, nearly disaster for Canada:
How close did the USA come to sealing the game off the clearing attempt from their own end?
That little spot at the bottom of the left post is the puck hitting it. One inch to the left and it’s an icing and changes the flow of the game. One inch to the right and that’s in the net and would essentially have nailed Canada’s coffin. Instead, it’s off the post and Canada goes the other way. The result was eventually a goal from Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin to tie the game 2-2 with under a minute left in the third period. All this craziness wouldn’t even come close to the overtime period.
Because of the Olympic ban on its video, I can’t find the saves of Shannon Szabados early in overtime. Needless to say, the US had at least two grade-A chances early in overtime and Szabados replied with two ten-bell saves. In the aftermath of what was to come, it’s easy to forget that Szabados made a couple incredible saves early just to prolong overtime. She really did carry her team on her back in this game at times.
Catherine Ward of Canada took a cross check at the 6:09 mark of overtime. Six seconds later, the referee called a penalty on the USA’s Jocelyne Lamoreux for slashing the goalie. On the replay, it seemed like a tap to the pads and was a pretty soft call. The CBC broadcast said that the referee had warned the US earlier about slashing the goalie, but it wasn’t a call to make in overtime. Nonetheless, it was off to three on three hockey.
The penalty was cross-checking, a penalty shot should have been called but there was nothing overt on this play. The States’ Hilary Knight’s right leg clipped Wickenheiser and down she went. This would give Canada a four on three power play. Then off the stick of Poulin again…
And a country erupted.
Now that I’m on the other side of the glass and getting paid to write about sports, I have to maintain impartiality as best I can. But I jumped. I yelled. So did Dustin Parkes in his post over at the Score. Even Bob McCown, a born-American who is Canada’s top sports radio voice, admitted he did the same today on his Prime Time Sports program. I think all of Canada jumped up at the same time.
That’s the beautiful part of this. I might catch two or three international women’s hockey games a year and I would bet most hockey fans watch less. But this was a “where were you when” moment. I remember where I was when Crosby scored, I remember where I was for Joe Carter’s World Series-winning home run. And I’ll remember where I was for this one.
So will a lot of Canadians and that’s why this is important. The second-largest land mass has the population about the size of California so it’s a little sparse up here. But kids in class in Nova Scotia, guys in offices in Toronto, to the prairies in Saskatchewan and to the British Columbia coast, it was a moment where Canadians celebrated together, even if it was vicariously. In a country the physical size of this, those moments don’t happen often. It’s one that will last generations.