Team USA women’s hockey finally stopped the reigning champion Team Canada in an epic, classic shootout at the Winter Olympic games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Wednesday The 3-2 victory was a combination of heart and grit for the red, white and blue’s first championship since 1998
By Arnie Leshin
The clock struck midnight here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, it wasn’t long after the noon hour, but one thing was clear, 20-year-old Maddie Rooney was the latest overnight sensation.
Her goalkeeping for the United States women’s hockey team were the final touches on a tense, thrilling, dramatic, sometimes brutal final against the four-time defending Winter Olympic Games champion.
And behind a true grit effort by the Americans, Rooney faced the pressure to stop Canada’s four-time Olympian Megan Agosta’s shootout attempt. After the USA’s Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson dazzled and faked out the Canadians’ 32-year-old veteran goalie Sharon Szabales and drove the puck into the right corner of the net, it was Rooney time.
The experienced Agosta, one of women’s hockey finest players, and who had scored earlier in the shootout, skated in, drew the puck back, then made a move trying to draw open Rooney’s pad, but Rooney didn’t budge, made the save, then reached back to swipe the puck away from her crease and completely out of danger.
Rooney, who began playing hockey as a 9-year-old back in Andover, Minnesota, and even played on the boy’s team in high school, then leapt into the air, hurled her stick and ran on her skates to be mobbed by her teammates while millions of viewers watched the USA win over Canada for the first time since 1998, the year they added the sport to the Olympics.
And it was the most celebrated time for America hockey Olympics since 38 years to the day brought a “Miracle on Ice” stunning victory for the men’s team over the world champion Russians in the semifinals at Lake Placid, N.Y.
And after a scoreless first period, a 2-1 Canadian lead after two, and when Jocelyn’s twin sister, Monique, scored the tying goal at 13:39 of the third period, that’s the way it remained through the 20-minute overtime. The shootout went through round one, and was decided in round two.
It was pure emotion when it ended, the Canada team shed tears and the American team just pounced on each other. It was quite an ending that finally brought the USA the gold against the sport’s most fierce rivals.
It didn’t take much time for the twitters to erupt. From past and present United States sports stars were many … Stephen Curry, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm, Chris Evert, Payton Manning, Diana Taurosi, Geno Auriemma, and others.
USA women’s hockey set a social media.
And in this long-awaited event, the game not only met the high standards of the biggest feud of the two countries, but surpassed it. Obviously the players were most nervous, but never quit before the Canadian and Americans fans in the arena.
It was the fifth time that Rooney went against Team Canada. She won three times and the two losses were both in overtime. Why did USA head coach Rob Stauber choose her as the starting goalie for the final?
“I choose her because her analytical mind was made for pressure,” said the former NHL player. “To be able to read the body language, read the stick, read the shooter, well there’s no substitute for this.”
I never did like shootouts he added, but maybe it’s not too bad after all.
“These girls” he said, “showed heart and grit. They just fought. I told them later that they deserved this, so celebrate.”
Rooney made two other big time saves. She stopped veteran Marie Philip-Poulin while sprawling out to grab the puck. Later she made a remarkable save on Rebecca Johnson, who decided to turn in a premature celebrate that went for naught.
The game was about even for the scoreless opening period, but in the next session, Canada scored twice and the USA once. The third period, though, was American’s best. They controlled the puck, often raced down the ice to set up shots that Szabalas remarkably saved, and kept the Canadians out of their end. One shot was all they got.
Forgotten was the boycott intended by Team USA last year, with the subject being equal money for the women. But after a deal was finally worked out, it was time to take the ice.
And to leave the ice a year later to celebrate, wave many USA flags, get those gold medals, and hear those chants of USA, USA, USA.
Canadians weren’t familiar with this, but they’ve had their time, this time it was the United States breaking through and sporting the gold medal as the national anthem was played. Oh, and they all joined in to sing.