Two-time U.S. Olympian Melissa Gonzalez beat Olympic gold-medal-winning goalie Maddie Hinch twice in shootout as Team USA edged England 1-1 (2-1) in the semifinals of the FIH Women’s Hockey World League Semifinals Thursday in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The U.S. women will face Germany — a 2-1 winner over Argentina in the other semifinal — at 8:30 a.m. ET on Sunday in the championship final. The U.S. is ranked No. 6 in the world; Germany is No. 7.
Team USA had already qualified for the 2017 Hockey World League Finals and the 2018 Women’s World Cup in London after a quarterfinal win over Japan.
The U.S. played catch-up for most of regulation during the semifinal game after Hannah Martin put England, ranked No. 2 in the world, on top 1-0 in the 16th minute.
Download the Team USA app today for breaking news, Olympic and Paralympic team bios, videos and more.
The Americans pressed the attack throughout and held a 63 percent time of possession advantage in their opponent’s end. That dominance led to a late breakout from the defensive end that got started and finished by tournament-leading goal scorer and 2016 Olympian Jill Witmer.
She flicked the ball to two-time Olympian Michelle Vittese, who carried the ball and shifted to the left above the arc before sending it to the charging Witmer on the nearside. Witmer’s shot found the cage after banging off Hinch in the 57th minute. The goal was reviewed but upheld, giving Witmer five goals in the tournament.
The shootout came directly at the end of regulation with no overtime period. Gonzalez scored on the first shot in the round of five, going wide left to beat Hinch, and then scored the winner on the first U.S. shot in the sudden death portion.
U.S goalie Jackie Briggs, another two-time Olympian, made three saves during the shootout, including an aggressive charging block on Alex Danson on the first shot of the sudden death.
Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.