It is said familiarity breeds contempt. When it comes to the women’s ice hockey teams from the United States and Canada, it breeds intensity, drama and world championships.
Monday evening the two teams met in the gold-medal game of the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship for the 17th time. No other teams have earned the opportunity to line up for a chance to win gold in the tournament’s history. Canada has won 10 of those championship meetings, but the United States had claimed five of the last six entering Monday’s final. They made the count six of the last seven, including the last three, with a 1-0 overtime win over Canada in the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia.
It marks the second time in the past three years that the United States took the world title on Canada’s home ice, having won the 2013 gold in Ottawa, Ontario.
Not only was a gold medal and its accompanying bragging rights on the line, a better seeding in the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic tournament also would be granted to the winner. The intensity and pace of early play reflected the stakes – five minutes would pass before the first whistle sounded to break the flow of the action.
As was the case when the two teams met in the preliminary round a week prior, the first two periods were a goaltenders’ duel between Alex Rigsby for the United States and Canada’s Emerance Maschmeyer, both earning their first world championship gold-medal game start.
Canada built an early 5-1 advantage in shots, but the American side reeled off five of their own in the latter part of the first period to regain momentum. Meghan Agosta ran in on Rigsby with three minutes left, but was denied by the former Wisconsin Badger. The home team kept the pressure up the remainder of the period but was unable to solve Rigsby, leading to a scoreless tie at the first intermission. Canada led in shots, 9-5.
The second period saw the action flow from one end of the ice to the other and both goalkeepers continuing to be tested. Canada outshot the U.S. 12-9 in the period, but the best scoring opportunity came when 2015 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award honoree Alex Carpenter gave the U.S. a short-handed opportunity with nine minutes left, only to see her breakaway attempt denied by Maschmeyer.
A power play with 14 minutes remaining in the game gave the Americans a number of tries, but Maschmeyer logged five saves in the two-minute span to keep the score even. The U.S. penalty killing was put under pressure in the third period, but survived two power plays to carry the game into overtime.
The overtime began with Canada on yet another power play, but again the U.S. was able to kill the penalty, thanks in part to Rigsby, who came up with two huge saves. She made a total of seven saves in overtime, all in penalty-killing situations.
It fell to Carpenter, a 2014 Olympic silver medalist who celebrates her 22nd birthday on April 13, to nail down the win. She pounced on a loose puck in front of the net, shoveling it in with 7:30 remaining in overtime.
“It just got quiet in (the arena), so I was like ‘Did it go in? Did it not?’,” said Carpenter of the moments after the goal. “I was pretty sure that it did. I had a few chances all game, and when you get chances it means you’re in the right spot. I was being persistent, and I think our whole team did that the entire game.”
Carpenter used one word to describe Rigsby’s performance Monday evening: Amazing.
“She had an unbelievable tournament,” Carpenter said. “A team can play great when you have that kind of goalkeeper behind you, and you can trust them to make the big stops when they need to be made.”
“Both goalies played played outstanding,” said U.S. coach Ken Klee. “Both teams had some unbelievable chances, and it was an exciting hockey game. Any time we play (Canada), we know it’s going to be a huge game. Last year it was a 12-goal game, and tonight it was just one. Anytime we can get a win, we’re certainly excited.”
The U.S. improved to 3-1 in overtime world championship games.
Both goalkeepers were named players of the game for their respective teams. Rigsby recorded 32 saves, while Maschmeyer turned away 34 shots.
Russia picked up its third world championship bronze medal with a 1-0 shootout win over Finland in the third-place game earlier in the evening.