Of course it was Jincy Dunne. It had to be.
The defenseman from Missouri was the leader of this United States team before it even came together in Buffalo.
This was her third time putting on the USA jersey for the IIHF Women’s U18 World Championship. She had two silver medals. She wanted a gold. In the worst way.
And she made it happen.
Dunne scored two dramatic goals for the U.S. Monday night, including the overtime game-winner as the Americans defeated Canada, 3-2, to win the gold medal in front of 2,000 at HarborCenter in Buffalo, N.Y.
“There is no one on this team that deservers a gold medal more than Jincy Dunne,” said U.S. goaltender Kaitlin Burt. “She’s been on the team for three years. Lost it twice. It’s something like a movie where you’re just rooting for No. 3 to come down and score. … No one on this deserves a gold more than Jinc. And I’m so glad that she led us to gold.”
It was a fitting end to the U18 career for Dunne, who committed to Ohio State, and one American coach Joel Johnson envisioned when he had a conversation with her a month before the tournament started.
“I said I’d love for you to have the opportunity that when people look back on this tournament they say, that’s the tournament Jincy Dunne took over and she was the best player in the world,” Johnson said. “I knew she was capable of it and the circumstances had to set themselves up so she could perform the way she did. Then she capitalized. I give all the credit to her. People will be talking about her performance here for along time.”
But Dunne doesn’t talk much about herself. She speaks of gratitude and teammates. Even in the most glorious moment of her young hockey career.
“I wish I could describe it but I can’t,” Dunne said of finally adding a gold medal to her hardware collection. “If we’re going to go with one word though it’s grateful. Grateful for the effort my teammates put in. For the staff that we’ve had. For parents. For everything. Just so grateful for everything.”
USA Hockey is pretty grateful for Dunne.
It was Dunne who snapped the team out of a lackadaisical first period with a dead on backhand shot that went in just under the left corner. With 33 seconds left in the period, Dunne had tied the game, 1-1, erasing a first period that saw Canada dominate and Burt keep the U.S. in the game.
“They were all over us and I give them a lot of credit,” Johnson said. “They had a lot of energy on the puck and were really outskating us. There’s nothing more to it than that. They took it to us. That goal at the end of the first by Jincy was a game changer. That’s a kid who’s putting this team on her shoulders.”
The U.S. vastly improved play the next two periods and controlling pace and dominating shots on goal. Alyssa Gorecki gave the Americans as 2-1 lead but just 3:23 later Samantha Cogan responded for Canada.
The U.S. put on relentless pressure in the third and continuously drew Canada into penalties. They had five power play opportunities in that third period, but Marlene Boissonnault made amazing save after amazing save.
With 28 seconds left in regulation the U.S. drew another penalty. They failed to score and after a 15 minute intermission started the overtime with a 4-on-3 power play.
Canada cleared the puck before the U.S. came back on the rush. Dunne blasted the puck, her seventh shot of the game, and scored just 51 seconds into the extra session.
“Did we want to go into overtime? No. Did we want to score on the power play more? Yes,” Dunne said. “I think at the end of the day these are games you’re going to remember. These are games you love to play. These are the games you train for. We all have gold medals around our necks and it’s the most amazing feeling in the world.”