Sunday, 15 April 2012

Golden Extra Time

For the fourteenth straight time that the Women's World Hockey Championship has been held, the same two teasm stared one another down in the final of the tournament. Canada and the US - old foes in international women's hockey - renewed the rivalry in this year's edition of the Women's World Championship withe some familiar faces and some new talents making up the rosters. Team USA bombed Canada by a 9-2 score in the round-robin portion of the tournament, so there was every reason to believe that USA was more skilled and more hungry to make it five-straight World Championships for them. In the end, it took an extra period, a turnover, and a nifty pass to determine a winner and earn a gold medal.

There was a clear physical element brought to this game by both teams as the hits were numerous, resulting in several players being skated to their respective sin bin for the contact. Honestly, if these two teams were permitted to hit, I'm pretty sure this game would have looked like any of the NHL Playoff games we've seen thus far. But when it's Canada vs. USA for a gold medal, there's always an element of physical play not seen in games against the other countries, and that's good for the fans as the entertainment level ratchets up when these two teams play one another.

It was evident that the sold-out University of Vermont's Gutterson Fieldhouse was in for one heckuva game as Canada opened the scoring 7:52 into the opening frame while shorthanded. Canada's iconic Hayley Wickenheiser opened the scoring with a nice goal past Molly Schaus to put the visitors up by a goal. Team USA would respond 5:02 later when Kendall Coyne found some room past Canadian goalkeeper Shannon Szabados, and the two teams went into the first intermission knotted at 1-1. There were a lot of blocked shots and physical play in the opening period - a sign of how badly both teams wanted the victory.

Canada opened the second period with a couple of quick goals. Jayna Hefford scored at the 4:07 mark on the powerplay while Monique Lamoureux-Kolls watched from the sin bin, and then Caroline Ouellette made it a two-goal lead for the Canadian squad just 1:29 later. Suddenly, the Americans were playing catch-up in a tournament that never saw them trail in a game. But the talented American team began to chip away at the lead. Brianna Decker scored a quick goal at the 16:43 mark to cut the deficit to one goal, and the game was tied just 1:33 later when Gigi Marvin scored on a powerplay with Gillian Apps off for bodychecking. After two periods, the two teams were tied yet again at 3-3.

The parade to the penalty box continued in the third period as Canadian Jocelyne Larocque was sent off for tripping just 2:25 in. Just as she had in the second period, Gigi Marvin scored on a powerplay to give the Americans their first lead of the night at 4-3. The teams traded chances, hits, and opportunities for the vast majority of the period until American Jocelyne Lamoureux was caught for holding at 16:38. 44 seconds after stepping into the penalty box, Lamoureux stepped out as Canadian Meghan Agosta scored on the powerplay to tie the game at 4-4.
Both teams played carefully after the Canadian goal, and we were off to overtime to settle this game and determine who would take the gold medal home as World Champions.

It didn't take long to determine a winner as we saw the "golden goal" just 1:50 into the extra frame.
How about that pass from Meghan Agosta? Instead of trying to feed it through to Tessa Bonhomme, she showed just enough patience to allow Caroline Ouellette to jump into the slot, and Ouellette buried it past Schaus.

"Really who made the play of the game on that was Tessa Bonhomme," Ouellette told The Canadian Press. "She saw I was coming off the bench, she went to the net and brought everyone with her. I yelled as loud as I could.

"I think Meghan Agosta was about to shoot and she heard me. She passed to me and Tessa Bonhomme was in front of the goalie and she didn't see anything. I just had to shoot."

Canada won its first World Hockey Championship since 2007 in Winnipeg. The event actually set an attendance record for Women's Worlds held in the US. Total attendance was 26,205 for an average of 1,247 over the 21 games. With the conclusion of the tournament, the final standings were as follows:
  • Canada (gold)
  • USA (silver)
  • Switzerland (bronze)
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • Russia
  • Germany
  • Slovakia
The awards for the best players at each position were handed out after the game. The Directorate Awards went to Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling, Finnish defenceman Jenni Hiirikoski, and American forward Kelli Stack. The tournament all-stars were also announced after the game. The players named were as follows:
  • Goaltender: Florence Schelling (Switzerland)
  • Defence: Gigi Marvin (USA)
  • Defence: Laura Fortino (Canada)
  • Forward: Monique Lamoureux-Kolls (USA)
  • Forward: Kelli Stack (USA)
  • Forward: Hayley Wickenheiser (Canada)
As a note, Schelling was outstanding in Switzerland's 6-2 win over Finland in the bronze medal game. Schelling stopped 50 shots in the victory, and was entirely the reason that Finland was denied the bronze medal. In terms of being named the best goaltender and a tournament all-star, she absolutely deserved the accolades as she finished the tournament with a 3.33 GAA and a .932 save percentage in the five games she played. She was, undoubtedly, the best player not wearing a maple leaf or the stars and stripes.

The top scorer in the tournament was American Monique Lamoureux-Kolls with 14 points. American defenceman Gigi Marvin was the top-scoring rearguard with nine points. Lamoureux-Kolls also led the tournament with seven goals. Hayley Wickenheiser was Canada's top scorer with ten points. American Brianna Decker led the tournament in plus/minus with a +13.

Another great tournament that ended with the two arch-rivals sees Canada win this long-running feud! Well done, ladies, and great work on bringing home the gold medal!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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