With the ups and downs that the Canadian national women’s team experienced during their centralization, the gold medal game at Sochi ran parallel to these experiences. Cheryl Pounder, a former player and gold medalist for Canada turned broadcaster, stated on TSN Radio during the game that the theme for Canada’s centralization was “dig a little deeper”, and Canada certainly accomplished that in a pulse-pounding 3-2 overtime victory.
Considering the emotional roller coaster ride that the squad endured, starting with the release of one of Canada’s favorite players early on, a coaching change, along with the appointment of a new captain, it would have been all to easy to see Canada collapse. The character, determination and team-first approach would prove to be the defining factors in Canada’s miracle on ice.
After second generation star Alexandra Carpenter scored the go-ahead goal to provide the United States with a 2-0 advantage early in the third period, it appeared as if the United States were going to snap their gold medal drought of 16 years. With the smiles and cheers on the US bench, no one could have foreseen what would develop.
Once Winter Games rookie Brianne Jenner scored on US backstop Jessie Vetter with less than four minutes remaining, Canadian fans had visions of the comeback at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Burlington, Vermont all over again.
Canadian coach Kevin Dineen showed bravura by removing Shannon Szabados from the net in order for an extra attacker. With Kelli Stack’s long shot hitting the Canadian post afterwards, it definitely seemed like the trailing Canadians had a fighting chance.
Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored the gold-medal winning goal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, would rise to the occasion four years later. With the seconds ticking away, Poulin beat Vetter and the momentum clearly changed. As overtime loomed on the horizon, Canada’s jubilation quickly became desolation for the US.
With Hilary Knight called for a hooking penalty, it would be the advantage that Canada needed. For the second consecutive Winter Games, Poulin would score the gold-medal winner. Just like Paul Henderson in 1972, Mario Lemieux in 1987 and Sidney Crosby in 2010, Poulin’s goal elevates her to that same echelon in heroic and legendary Canadian goals.
Worth noting, there are some other women who have scored legendary goals for Canada. Poulin follows in the footsteps of women like Nancy Drolet, who logged two overtime gold-medal winners in IIHF championship play, and Jayna Hefford, who scored the gold-medal winner at Salt Lake City 2002.
In observing the bigger picture, the torch of leadership has clearly been passed on to Poulin with this heroic performance in Sochi. With so many Winter Games rookies on Canada, including the likes of Melodie Daoust, Laura Fortino, Brianne Jenner, Genevieve Lacasse, Lauriane Rougeau, Natalie Spooner and Jennifer Wakefield, Sochi represented a transition period in the history of the national program.
The Pioneer Generation of Jayna Hefford, Caroline Ouellette and Hayley Wickenheiser have likely played their final games for Canada. While it represents a significant loss for Canada, the new generation of players, such as Poulin, proves that the future for Canada remains in very good hands.
Ben Pelosse/Journal de Montreal/QMI Agency OLY2014