Four years ago in Sochi, the United States women’s hockey team lost the gold medal game, in overtime, after blowing a 2-0 lead to Canada with less than four minutes left in the game.
For a group of players on that 2014 team, the loss was their second straight in the Olympic gold medal game: they also fell to Canada, in Vancouver, in 2010.
“When you go through heartbreak it changes you,” says U.S. forward Hilary Knight, who played in both of those games, during an interview before the Pyeongchang Olympics. “This drive, this feeling inside your stomach, everything you do is focused on ‘how do I bring a gold medal back to the United States?’”
The U.S. avenged its hockey heartbreak on Thursday afternoon in South Korea, beating nemesis Canada 3-2 in an overtime shootout in the gold medal game. Knight started the scoring with a power play goal with just 25.4 seconds remaining in the first period, putting the U.S. up 1-0. Canada came rushing back in the second, with a pair of goals in just over seven minutes. But Monique Lamoureux-Morando tied the game with a breakaway goal in the third, sending the game to scoreless overtime. ‘
The American hero: goalie Maddie Rooney, who saved Canada’s last ditch effort to extend the shootout after Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson put the U.S. up.
The win capped off a momentous past year for the U.S. women’s team. Back in March, the American players threatened to pull out of world championships if USA Hockey did not provide improved salary and benefits for the women. The team reached an agreement with USA Hockey and played in the tournament, beating Canada 3-2 in overtime in the title game. The Women’s Sports Foundation awarded the players its Wilma Rudolph Courage Award.
The fight for equality bonded the team, and contributed to their success in competition. “We came together to make a monumental shift in the state of women’s hockey,” says forward Gigi Marvin. “We’ve already had that burning inside our heart. We know that this game’s about much more than just us.”
Now, the team’s left its mark on the Olympic ice as well. The gold is Team USA’s first since 1998, the year the women’s tournament debuted at the Olympics.
“You’re not running on the treadmill, wanting to throw up, and thinking, ‘yeah, second place,” says U.S. captain Meghan Duggan. “We know there’s so much more for us. That’s what we’re chasing.”
The chase is over. Women’s hockey gold is coming back to America.