By Steve Silverman
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It may not have been the Miracle on Ice, but it was clearly Frozen Redemption.
The American women, so sick and tired of losing to Canada in the Olympic gold medal game, defeated their archrivals 3-2 in a shootout, earning their first hockey gold medal since 1998.
The Americans won the game when Jocelyne Lamoreux-Davidson scored a spectacular goal and then Maddie Rooney stopped a shot in the shootout, setting off a wild celebration on the ice.
The game was nasty and hard-hitting throughout, yet the women on both sides showed off their skills at key moments. It was an incredibly competitive and entertaining event, but in the end, the only thing that mattered was the outcome.
The United States had finally beaten its nemesis and won the gold medal.
LISTEN: Boomer & Gio React To USA Win
Four years ago, the American women suffered the most painful of defeats to their Canadian counterparts in the Sochi gold medal game. They had taken a 2-0 lead into the late part of the third period before the Canadians finally broke the shutout. In the final minutes of regulation, Canada tied the score, sending the game into overtime. The northern neighbors won that game in the extra session on a goal by Marie-Philip Poulin and sent the American players into a deep depression.
The U.S. players, including Amanda Kessel, Gigi Marvin, Brianna Decker, Kendal Coyne, Hilary Knight and Meghan Duggan, did not simply get over that game and move on with their lives. They carried that game with them for the last four years, and the only thing that motivated them was the idea of getting back to the gold medal game and defeating the Canadians.
That moment of overwhelming joy came when Lamoreux-Davidson made as sweet a move as you could see in the shootout to beat Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados with the go-ahead goal in the sixth round of the shootout.
Lamoreux-Davidson skated deliberately in on the Canadian goalie, faked as if she would take the puck to her backhand and drew it back to her forehand with speed and style.
That move, ice hockey’s version of an ankle breaker, sent the highly accomplished Szabados falling backward onto the ice. Lamoreux-Davidson then fired the puck into a small opening and the USA had its lead.
The move was so sweet that it has a name. Lamoreux-Davidson calls it “Oops, I Did it Again,” and a nation turns its grateful eyes to Lamoreux-Davidson — and Britney Spears.
That left Rooney to stop Canadian Megan Agosta, who had beaten the American goalie earlier in the shootout. This time, Rooney stayed with the Canadian sharpshooter and got her pad on the puck and then knocked the loose disc toward center ice. The game was over, and the USA had its spectacular victory.
“Kudos to her, for a 20-year-old backstopping in an Olympic gold medal game in a shootout is pretty unbelievable, so I’m so proud of her,” said forward Monique Lamoureux-Morando, Jocelyne’s sister, who scored the tying goal in the third period. “It’s hard to put into words how big of a moment (that was), and she rose to the challenge.”
The celebration on the ice resembled the memorable scene in Lake Placid, New York, 38 years ago when American men such as Mike Eruzione, Jack O’Callahan, Mark Johnson, Bob Suter and Jim Craig completed their Miracle on Ice and won the 1980 gold medal.
Eruzione recognized the present-day heroes, tweeting his joy and congratulations to them after the victory.
The Americans were largely outplayed for the majority of the game. After taking a 1-0 lead on a brilliant deflection late in the first period, the Canadians scored a pair of second-period goals to take a 2-1 lead.
Team USA seemed like the faster team, but the Canadians were making the better and smarter plays, and they were also the more physical team. As the third period progressed, the tension and anxiety on the U.S. side was tightening with vice-like pressure.
The U.S. suddenly started to dictate the action at the midpoint of the third period, and Lamoureux-Morando stepped to the forefront shortly thereafter. She scored on a breakaway, whistling a forehand shot under Szabados’ catching glove.
From that point on, the U.S. dominated puck possession and had the majority of the scoring chances during the rest of the third period and throughout the 20-minute scoreless overtime.
That’s when the game went to the shootout, and the United States overcame years of frustration and painful losses to come up with the shootout victory.
It was special, dramatic and perhaps the best moment of the Olympics.
Redemption for the United States, and peace for players who had been tormented by the pain of the Sochi near-miss for four years.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy