In 2014, when Marie-Philip Poulin’s shot went in, everyone celebrated but her. In 2021, she was the only one celebrating.
The 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship Gold Medal Game was a classic, but familiar at the same time. Poulin’s overtime winner gave Canada a 3-2 win over the United States to clinch their first World Championship gold medal since 2012 — and first gold in any best-on-best senior women’s tournament since 2014 — on Tuesday night in Calgary.
The game had several similarities to Canada’s last gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Canada was down 2-0 to the United States. Brianne Jenner scored the goal to make the game 2-1. You know who scored the game-winner.
Poulin’s snap shot that went over Team USA goaltender Nicole Hensley was so perfect, nobody thought it went in. Poulin started to celebrate, but play continued. Eventually, the buzzer sounded signalling that video review confirmed there was a goal, and only then did the celebration get under way.
“That helped when the buzzer happened,” Poulin said, laughing about whether she knew it was a goal. “I kinda knew it went in, I saw it. It felt good when that buzzer happened. Obviously, there’s a little moment when you question yourself, if you saw the right thing, but when everybody jumped on the ice being able to celebrate as a group, there’s no better feeling.”
It was a long time coming for Canada, who have been unable to win a senior women’s tournament in seven years, most of those in the same fashion that they won in Sochi, and that they won on Tuesday night.
“It’s been a hard journey for this group and this win tonight is not just the players that are on the roster right now but the players that were with us the last couple of years,” said Brianne Jenner, who made the pass to Poulin for the winner. “There were a lot of overtimes that didn’t go our way. I think we took some big steps this year especially. I credit a lot of it to [Director of Hockey Operations Gina Kingsbury’s] leadership, [head coach Troy Ryan’s] leadership, just setting the path for us. It feels pretty good but it’s a win that goes beyond this group and it’s something special for us.”
“I think we created an environment where everyone could be themselves, confident to go out there and play their game.” Jenner continued. “We let go of mistakes and we just believed in each other. That didn’t happen overnight. This is a culture that we’ve been working on for a long time and to see it finally pay off for us is really rewarding.”
It certainly didn’t look like this game would end in celebration for Canada as Alex Carpenter scored two first period goals to put the US up 2-0 heading into the first intermission.
Canada came back from that, and played their best period of the tournament in the second, tying the game up on goals from Jenner and Jamie Lee Rattray just 2:29 apart to tie the game. They outshot the Americans 16-8 in the middle frame.
Jenner was asked if there was a moment where she felt the team would be able to fight back after trailing.
“It was the way we came back into the dressing room after the first period,” she said. “We were actually pretty happy with our start. Obviously you don’t want to be down 2-0 but we were playing our way. Just the calm from the veterans, from the rookies, just everyone in the room and at that point we all believed that we could do this.”
“The team showed up tonight,” Poulin said. “We stayed resilient. We stayed [with] our game.”
In the third period, Canada had to kill three penalties backed by goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, plus Jocelyne Larocque, Renata Fast, Claire Thompson, and tournament all-star Erin Ambrose, who all played the lion’s share of the team’s minutes on defence. Emily Clark and Blayre Turnbull were among the team’s key penalty killers up front. The US went 1/5 on the power play, while Canada was 1/4.
Desbiens made 23 saves while Hensley made 29 for the United States.
Turnbull, who was on the ice when the buzzer sounded, hurt her leg in the celebrations, and was forced to a stretcher, where she received her gold medal and was able to celebrate with her team.
In other action on Tuesday, Finland defeated Switzerland 3-1 to win the bronze medal. The Russian team defeated Japan 2-0 to finish in fifth place and secure a spot in Group A for the 2023 World Championship.
The rest of the tournament’s all-star team as voted by the media was goaltender Anni Keisala (FIN), defender Lee Stecklein (USA), forwards Petra Nieminen (FIN), Natalie Spooner (CAN), and Mélodie Daoust (CAN). Daoust was also named tournament MVP.
Countries will now take a break before work begins towards the 2022 Winter Olympics, to be held in Beijing in just a few months.