Canadian Olympic Hockey Team 2014: Gold-Medal Win in Sochi Sweetest of All

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Canadian Olympic Hockey Team 2014: Gold-Medal Win in Sochi Sweetest of All
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

For the Canadian women's hockey team, winning the Olympic Gold medal in Sochi was nothing new.

But it will be hard for the country to ever top the drama from its 3-2 overtime victory over the archrival United States, when the team seemed on the brink of elimination multiple times in the late stages of the game.

In the end, Marie-Philip Poulin played a starring role for the Canadian women, who have become four-time reigning champions at the Olympic games.

Following the entertaining finish, Poulin spoke to Jimmy Golen of the Associated Press.

"I think it always gets better, for sure," said Poulin, who also scored twice in the Vancouver final four years ago, said Thursday night with her second gold medal draped around her neck. "It's so hard to get here and to bring it back (home) is amazing."

So where does Thursday's contest rank among the other gold-medal victories of Team Canada's past?

Undoubtedly, it's at the top of the list.

Since Team USA won the gold medal in 1998 at the Nagano Winter Games, the first edition to feature a women's hockey tournament, Team Canada hasn't lost an Olympic game. Greg Beacham of the Associated Press noted that Thursday actually marked the only time Canada has ever needed to go into Olympic overtime since 1998.

 

In 2002, the Canadian women claimed a close 3-2 victory over the United States to earn their first Olympic team gold. Four years later they rolled to a 4-1 final win over Sweden before defending their home ice with a 2-0 victory over the Americans in the 2010 Vancouver gold-medal game.

Even though the 2002 gold was momentous and winning a 2010 gold in Canada was amazing, the 2014 victory over the United has to rank as the biggest triumph in the history of the Canadian women's hockey program.

Following a heated seven-game series leading up to the Olympics that featured four straight American victories going into Sochi, Canada won when it mattered most.

 

Staring at a 2-0 deficit late in the third period, Canada didn't let up on Thursday.

The comeback started with 3 minutes, 36 seconds left in regulation when Brianne Jenner scored a goal to cut USA's lead to 2-1. In a fateful move shortly thereafter, coach Kevin Dineen pulled his goalie Shannon Szabados to get an extra attacker on the ice, setting the stage for some incredible drama.

Minutes after Jenner's goal, the United States look poised to take a 3-1 lead after a long shot made from American Kelli Stack made its way down the ice toward the open net. Then something magical happened, as artfully described by Cathal Kelly of The Toronto Star.

That was it. That was the whole shooting match floating down the ice for about an hour and a half.

Just when we all knew it was headed in, the puck caromed off the right post and out. Please tell me Hockey Canada had an angle grinder out there an hour after the ice was cleared. We need to get that post home. It’s getting an Order of Canada. You should vote for it in the next election. That post stands for what we all believe in. That post has already defended our freedom.

Once the giant hand withdrew back into the sky and settled again, it was Marie-Philip Poulin’s turn to work small miraculous acts on His behalf.

She tied it with 55 seconds to go. Eight minutes into overtime, she was allowed the freedom of slot. The American goalie had drifted out of position. Poulin had the empty net Stack had missed. She buried it, and other things.

In the end, Canada's late offensive barrage was too much for the Americans to handle, as the Canadian women cemented their status as the powerhouse of global hockey once again.

Damien Cox of The Toronto Star also gave his take on the contest and its historical significance.

After 56 minutes, Team Canada truly looked dead in the water.

And yet, this band of extraordinary women, dominated most of the year by the Americans, somehow pulled it off in style with a come-from-behind 3-2 overtime triumph, perhaps delivering what will come to be regarded as the most sensational Olympic hockey victory ever for Canada by a men’s or women’s team.

Going forward, it doesn't look like Team Canada is going anywhere. The women have played in all five of the Olympic gold medal finals so far and you can already peg them as favorites to make a championship run again at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

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If this tournament taught us anything, it's that Canada and the United States are still in a league of their own when it comes to women's hockey and the gap doesn't appear to be closing anytime soon. While Thursday's thrilling final will certainly add some spice to this rivalry, Team Canada certainly has the upper hand.

This was an all-time instant classic that will be talked about for years to come. It also gives the Canadian and American men's hockey teams a big game to follow up, as they will do battle in a semifinal game in Sochi on Friday (12 p.m. ET, CBC/NBC Sports Network) that is sure to get the blood pumping in North America.

For now, Canadians should bask in the glow of the success of their women's team, which just turned in its greatest performance ever and one that will be hard to ever top.

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