Throughout the Beijing Olympics, the unrestrained bravado of the Canadian women’s hockey team was clear for all to see — and elicit admiration, anger, and fear.
There were insults to the teams going to play for the bronze medal, fierce pitfalls on opponents, and careful criticism of failed strategies for scoring at Ann-Renée Desbiens.And The goalkeeper who made the Canadian bend a fortress.
The Canadians on Thursday proved that it all made sense: They beat the United States in the gold-medal match, 3-2, and reclaimed the Olympic crown the Americans grabbed four years ago.
It was a show to play heavily armed from Canada, mixed with a few doses of luck and a furious dash that started with an Olympic loss in 2018.
The outcome was one that Canadians tended to predict. For them, the gold medal was not so much about clearance as it was about meeting a non-stop high standard.
Canada seemed to score about seven minutes into the match when American goalkeeper Alex Cavallini saved a puck’s ball and Natalie Spooner saw a powerful shot. However, the United States contested that Canada was an intruder, an assessment that officials supported.
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It was a break that kept the match goalless for just 35 seconds, when Canada won the showdown, Sarah Norse took a pass, rolled and scored.
Canada doubled their lead later in the period with a shot from Mary Philippe Boleyn, the Canada captain who was playing in her fourth games, pushing it to 3-0 when Pauline scored again midway through the second half.
Hilary Knight scored a short-term goal for the United States late in the second half, promising the Americans would at least avoid the indignity of disqualification when the gold medal was on their way.
Although the United States added a powerful goal in about 13 seconds to play in the third, none of the score would prove anywhere enough.
The scene was familiar, the sixth gold-medal match between Canada and the United States since women’s hockey became an Olympic sport in 1998. The United States won its first Olympic title but not another until 2018, when it won a match decided on penalties. It was seen, at least in Canada, as an aberration rather than a harbinger of a shift in power.
Several meetings leading up to Thursday’s game suggested the same. The Canadians won the preliminary round match in Beijing 4-2, setting a record 4-2 in a series of pre-Olympic exhibition games in North America.
The teams were the undisputed giants of gaming. She entered Canada on Thursday, scoring 54 goals, an Olympic tournament record, and had three women – Brian Jenner, Sarah Filler and Jamie Lee Rattray – among the top five scorers in Beijing.
The United States, who brought three superb goalkeepers to China, took two hit wins, twice defeating Finland, who won the bronze medal on Wednesday night.
Led by Kendall Quinn Schofield, captain and one of the world’s fastest skaters, and jockey, who on Thursday set the U.S. record for most games played by a women’s hockey player at the Olympics, the United States was under a fearsome attack that forced rival goalkeepers. To face a storm of shots throughout the tournament.
But the Americans struggled early on Thursday to turn chances into goals. At the same time, they found a Canadian team eager – and able – to score quickly. In the first period, Canada tied the United States in shooting, by 11, a notable turnaround from their last encounter, when the Americans had 16 attempts the first time, and the Canadians managed only five.
The US eventually outpaced Canada in shooting again, which is a reminder of the Canadian assessment after their first meeting here that the Americans were too happy to try to beat opponents with a barrage of shots that weren’t always good.
It was a strategy that worked in most games. But as time waned on Thursday, with the Americans scrambling for the final soundtrack of kicks and hits and emptying their nets with more than three minutes to play, it was clear which team had shown themselves as the best.
Just as Canada has long assured that it will.