Beaten by the Canadians in the last two Olympic finals, the USA made a strong start, with Hilary Knight flicking them into a 1-0 lead late in the first period. Haley Irwin levelled the score two minutes into the second period, with Marie-Philip Poulin giving the four-time defending champions the lead five minutes later with a long-range strike.
That goal may well have stirred memories among the Americans of the 3-2 overtime defeat to their northern neighbours at Sochi 2014, when Poulin scored twice to deny them victory. Undeterred, the USA fought back in the third period, with Monique Lamoureux-Morando going clean through on the Canadian net to tie up the scores with a little over six minutes remaining.
There was to be no second successive Canadian overtime win, as the 20 extra minutes came and went without any further goals, despite the defending champions having a late powerplay. In a nerve-wracking shootout – the first in an Olympic women’s ice hockey final – netminders Maddie Rooney of the USA and Shannon Szabados of Canada both made two saves apiece before Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson – Lamoureux-Morando’s twin sister – stepped up to put the Americans 3-2 ahead.
Rooney then denied Meghan Agosta to end her country’s long wait to return to the top of the podium, with her jubilant team-mates throwing their helmets into the air in celebration and rushing to congratulate her.
“When Jocelyne was going in on that I knew she was going to score, because I've seen her doing that plenty of times. Our coach taught us that a few years ago,” said Lamoureux-Morando. “But to have Maddie – she is 20 years old – go in and play so big like that… kudos to her, because not everyone can take the pressure like that. She took it like a champ.”
“It is everything for our country,” said USA coach Robb Stauber. “I can’t tell you how happy I am for our players. We love them. It is unreal. I am just so thankful for the outcome. It was a thrilling final. I’m just so happy for our players.”
“I can’t put it into words,” commented US defencewoman Kacey Bellamy, who was on the losing side in the Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 gold medal matches. “This whole year is for everyone that came before us. This is for Julie Chu (the former USA team captain) and for all our families at home, the schools that we went to, everyone supporting us. It is a feeling I have never experienced.”
“Obviously in women’s hockey, it is all different with the colour of the medal, but we work all year and it was a tight game,” said a disappointed Poulin. “I think it’s good for women’s hockey, but obviously it’s a tough one to swallow. This team really gave their heart out tonight. It’s my second family and I’m so proud of all of them. This team was very special.”