GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA—She felt oddly serene as she skated to center ice, ready to take the biggest shot of her career. Even though Gigi Marvin had never been in this position before—in a shootout at the Olympics, against Canada, with the gold medal on the line—it all seemed so familiar.
“I’ve done that so many times in my mind,’’ Marvin said. “In Warroad, where I’m from, we skate seven hours a day. We create these games and these moments in our minds as 7-year-olds. So it’s been in me this whole time, just like it’s been in all my teammates. We just got to live out what we’ve been working on our entire lives.’’
For the first time in 20 years, the game ended the same way their childhood dreams did: with an Olympic gold medal.
The U.S. women beat Canada 3-2 in a shootout at Gangneung Hockey Centre, riding a stout performance from rookie goaltender Maddie Rooney and the pond-hockey chops of North Dakota’s Lamoureux twins. Monique Lamoureux-Morando tied it 2-2 with six minutes, 21 seconds left in the third period on a pretty breakaway. Her sister, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, scored the decisive goal in the shootout with a spectacular display of patience and guile, outwitting Canada’s superb goaltender Shannon Szabados.
Rooney, of Andover, stopped 29 shots through overtime and four more in the shootout. She was among seven native Minnesotans to bring the U.S. its first Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey since 1998, the year the sport made its Winter Games debut. The American team included six current or former Gophers, and two current or former Minnesota Duluth players.
Canada had won the past four Olympic gold medals and entered Thursday’s matchup with a five-game win streak over the U.S. As the Americans received the gold medals they chased for two decades, it was, at long last, Canada’s turn to cry.
“Our whole team was calm,’’ said Rooney, 20, who took a leave from UMD this season to train for the Olympics. “We knew we had this. “Maybe some people had some doubt. But for the past eight months, we’ve done everything we possibly could. I just knew we were going to get it done today.’’
Like every gold-medal game between the U.S. and Canada, the Pyeongchang finale crackled with intensity, speed and a sense that something memorable would happen. For a while, it appeared that the storyline might play out in familiar style. The Americans took a 1-0 lead on Hilary Knight’s power-play goal, set up by Minnetonka native Sidney Morin, with 26 seconds left in the first period.
Canada dialed up the heat in the second period, using superior poise and precision to strike twice for a 2-1 lead. The go-ahead goal came from Marie-Philip Poulin, who stuck the dagger in the Americans with the winning goals in the 2010 and 2014 gold-medal games.
Though that might have seemed like an omen, no one on the U.S. bench read it that way. Through five months of living and training together, the Americans had grown extraordinarily close. They rode out Hurricane Irma at their Florida training base, and a threat to boycott last spring’s world championships—which brought them better funding and benefits—succeeded because of their solidarity.
If they could handle that, they figured, they could handle Canada.
“The biggest thing we were facing was the doubt and fear,’’ Marvin said. “We were able to push everything away. How many opportunities did we have to just mentally cave? And we didn’t. We just crushed the fear, and crushed the doubt, and trusted in what was to come.’’
Gophers forward Kelly Pannek, who took the year off from school to play at the Olympics, set up Lamoureux-Morando’s tying goal with a long pass that caught the Canadians on a line change. After a tense, scoreless overtime, Marvin started the shootout with a goal. Coach Robb Stauber asked Lamoureux-Davidson if she wanted to be the sixth shooter if it went that far.
“Absolutely,’’ she told him, and she instantly knew the shot she would try.
Lamoureux-Davidson had practiced it thousands of times, stickhandling around tires to develop the deft hands and precise timing that would make the play work. She had been working on the move for four years—since the U.S. lost to Canada at the Sochi Olympics—and named it ‘Oops, I Did It Again.’
As she skated toward the Canada goal, she said she blacked out. She didn’t remember Szabados backing up, or deking the goalie to get her to drop, or pulling the puck around to the right to flip it into the net. No one else who saw it will forget it.
When the last Canadian shooter, Meghan Agosta, fired a shot into Rooney’s pads, the Americans flung their sticks into the air, grabbed flags from the bench and let out 20 years of pent-up emotion.
“That was the most beautiful shootout goal I have ever seen,’’ said U.S. forward Dani Cameranesi of Plymouth. “I was ecstatic when Jocelyne scored. We were all screaming like crazy. And we had full faith in Maddie. We knew she would make that save.’’
Marvin, the former Gopher from Warroad, glowed as she touched the gold medal hanging around her neck. It took her three Olympics over eight years to get it.
When the glum, tearful Canadians received their silver medals, Jocelyne Larocque pulled hers off as soon as the ribbon touched her shoulders. In a bit of sweet symmetry, four-time U.S. Olympian Angela Ruggiero—a member of that 1998 team that won the Americans’ only Olympic gold in women’s hockey—was among the medal presenters.
“I think the stars really aligned for us,’’ Lamoureux-Morando said. “To be 20 years from when (Ruggiero’s team) won, you can’t write a better script than that. It’s amazing.’’