Sauce Us a Follow

Heading into the 2024 ISBHF Women’s Worlds in Visp, Switzerland, the US roster had a point to prove. After emerging with the silver medal in 2017 and 2019, their golden dreams were shattered at the subsequent Worlds. With host country Canada gaining their sixth gold medal at the 2022 event, a dejected US roster found themselves out of the medals.

Determined to prove that they were worthy of being part of the gold medal conversation this year, a strong showing in the preliminary round endured an obstacle. Losing only one match in said round, it was the kind of loss which could have derailed the team’s golden goals. The June 25 affair resulted in the US unable to defeat the defending champions from Canada. Contributing goals were Angie Cerilli and Chelsea Karpenko, while Keely Prockiw earned a 2-0 shutout win. Maxie Weisz faced 21 shots in a valiant effort for the US.

As the semifinals saw a rematch with archrival Canada, the US had the underdog label. Looking for redemption, the rematch represented the program’s finest hour. With a total of 46 shots on goal in this highly anticipated rematch, the fans in attendance at Lonza Arena were witness to a highly intense affair. Team captain, and former PHF pro, Colleen Murphy placed the ball past Keely Prockiw at 28:57, providing the US with the first lead of the game. Struggling with knee issues, Murphy’s display of character in playing through the pain only solidified her standing as team leader.

With Wolejko constantly nullifying the Canadian offense, her hopes of a shutout were spoiled in the third period. A resilient Canadian contingent managed to tie the game, as CBHA Hall of Famer Elysia Desmier finally solved Wolejko, instilling hope that a second straight gold medal remained possible.

With neither team able to regain the lead during the remaining minutes, overtime raised the stakes in the tournament’s most intense contest. Wolejko maintained her composure, displaying the poise of a champion as Canada could not capitalize on their scoring opportunities.

A shot by US blueliner Madelyn Evangelous set the stage for the game winner. Bouncing off Prockiw’s shoulder pad, Colleen’s sister, Katherine Murphy, pounced on the ball, placing her name on the scoresheet. Undoubtedly, the tournament’s biggest goal for Team USA, punching their tickets to the gold medal game brought a heightened sense of purpose.

Appearing in the finals for the third time in tournament history, silver was not an acceptable outcome. Opposing Czechia for the gold medal, the US played with plenty of momentum. In the preliminary round, the June 24 match saw the US make a statement, defeating Czechia in a shootout. Taylor Steadman rose to the occasion with the lone shootout goal, putting the exclamation point on a high stakes match filled with drama.

Early in the match, Wolejko proved to be a factor once again, numerous glove stops part of a masterclass in goaltending. With a scoreless drought through the first ten minutes, Yale alumnae Emma Seitz received a perfect pass from veteran Karen Levin, providing the US with a lead at the 10:53 mark. Another celebrated veteran, Becky Dobson earned the other assist, both playing the game of their lives.

Following Seitz’s goal, nearly 15 minutes of scoreless play saw tensions mount. Wolejko frustrated the Czech offense, while effective forechecking also helped preserve the US lead. Doubling the lead at 25:46, Megan Fortier found the perfect time to record her first tournament goal. Assisted by blueliners Pam Bilger and Chelsea Monahan, the dream of capturing the elusive gold medal was firmly within reach. Worth noting, Bilger served as captain for the gold medal winning US team at the 2022 ISBHF Masters,

Less than three minutes later, the US placed the game out of reach as Alexandra (Ali) Vakos added her name to the scoresheet. Once again, a veteran presence proved prominent regarding the assists. Colleen Murphy earned her first assist of the tournament while Dobson gained her second of the game. Also enjoying her second multi-point performance of the tournament, Dobson also appeared for the US in the gold medal games of 2017 and 2019.

Alongside the likes of Bilger, Levin and Murphy, the long road to glory proved well worth the wait. With a 3-0 shutout triumph, the US finally staked their claim, ascending to the plateau of the world’s finest. Recording 15 saves in the shutout, Brooke Wolejko finished with an undefeated mark at Worlds, earning acclaim as an elite goaltender. Seitz finished as Team USA’s leading scorer with 8 points while Katherine Murphy placed second with a solid seven points, all intertwined as champions on an inspiring team that defied the odds, bringing a new standard of excellence to USA Ball Hockey.

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In this article: #Awards, #BallHockey, #ChampionshipGame, #Championships, #Gold, #ISBHF, #ProHockey, #TeamUSA, #WomenInSport, #Womenshockey, Gold Medal, grow the game, Hockey, USA Ball Hockey, World Championships

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