Thursday, February 20, 2014

Heartbreaker: Canada rallies past USA in OT for Gold

Thanks to UPI
Sochi, Russia -- Marie-Philip Poulin netted the tying score late in regulation and the winning goal on a power play 8:10 into overtime as Team Canada bested Team USA by a 3-2 count in a thrilling gold-medal contest in front of 10,639 fans at Bolshoy Ice Arena on Thursday.

The deciding advantage was created when Hilary Knight was called for a questionable cross-checking minor when taking down Hayley Wickenheiser on a clean breakaway roughly 7 1/2 minutes into the extra session.

Under current NHL rules, what looked like a simple hook as Wickenheiser had a two-stride lead easily would have been called a penalty shot. The call was initially just that, then rescinded to a simple minor penalty.

"I think it is no different – officiating, developing players, developing programs – the game is growing by leaps and bounds," USA head coach Katey Stone said. "The speed and pace of the game is tremendous. It is a great, great product. We have to make sure that every part of the game operation, the game management, is developing at as fast a rate as it possibly can."

Laura Fortino received a pass from Haley Irwin as the Americans scrambled to shift their defense, leaving Poulin alone on the left side to hit the Gold-medal winning shot into an open net.

"This is the best feeling ever. It's like a dream come true," Philip said. "This was a team effort. We never gave up, and now we know what all that hard work was for."

The dream also appeared out of a nightmare for Canada head coach Kevin Dineen, who began this season as head coach for the Florida Panthers but was fired on November 8 and then named to his current post on December 17. 

"Sometimes one door closes and another one opens. I don't know how that all works out," Dineen admitted. "I haven't read the manual on where I go from here. It's a little bit of a left turn to take on this job. As I told my players before the game, the first time I met with them, I couldn't wait to get on the ice with them. In the last two months, I think I've become better at what I've done."

Brianne Jenner got the rally from a 2-0 deficit going for the Canadians, who have won the title four straight times and have come away victorious in 20 straight contests on the world stage since losing to Team USA in Nagano 16 years ago. 

Meghan Duggan and Alex Carpenter lit the lamp for the USA, which claimed its second straight Silver against its northern neighbors and medaled for the fifth time in as many Olympiads.

After missing out on a pair of power-play chances in the opening period as Canada attempted to take the body, the Americans took control in the middle frame.

Duggan finally snapped the scoreless deadlock with 8:03 remaining in the period, when her rising shot from the left circle settled inside the far post through a screen of multiple players.

Despite the lead, America began to take some liberties and paid the price. Team Canada enjoyed 32 seconds' worth of a 5-on-3 advantage starting with 5:46 to play, but failed to capitalize on either end of the advantage thanks to the USA's shot-blocking acumen.

Team USA picked up a crucial insurance goal at the tail end of its first power play of the third period, when Knight's hard pass to the right post was tipped home by Carpenter for a 2-0 game at 2:01.

Things got interesting with 3:26 on the clock, as Jenner cut through the offensive zone and her deflected shot fluttered past Jessie Vetter to make it 2-1.

Shannon Szabados was called to the bench for an extra skater with more than 90 seconds left, and a try to the empty net from center ice by Kellie Stack skittered off the left post with 1:24 to play. That came back to haunt the hosts, as Vetter failed to properly knock a puck away from her crease and Poulin capitalized with 54.6 seconds to play.

"That's how you knew it just wasn't meant to be," said Stack, who nonetheless will return to Boston College, which took the Beanpot and clinched the Hockey East regular season title. "The puck literally missed by an inch. We have to keep telling ourselves that everything happens for a reason and if we were meant to win it, it would have gone in."

Szabados came up with 27 stops, while counterpart Vetter stopped 28 shots but not the most important one. 

Earlier in the day, the Bronze medal went to Switzerland, which fell behind Sweden by two goals in the first period but stormed back to win, 4-3. Jessica Lutz provided the game winner with 6:17 left in regulation, as the Swiss medaled for the first time in Olympic competition.

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