Canada wins fifth Olympic gold — Lesley Ryder talks Team USA — Must-click women’s hockey links
The IX: Hockey Friday with Anne Tokarski, February 18, 2022
If you’re a hockey fan, it’s unlikely you’ve missed the news: Team Canada won its fifth Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey Thursday morning, beating rivals Team USA 3-2 in regulation.
The first five minutes of the game went by pretty slowly, until Canada’s Natalie Spooner scored — or did she? The play was reviewed and called back for offsides, so the clock was reset and the score remained 0-0. It didn’t take long for the Canadians to answer back for the goal they had stolen out from under them, as Sarah Nurse scored straight off the face-off dot to give Canada a one-goal lead.
Who else would score next in the first period but Captain Clutch (and, in my opinion, the true Captain Canada): Marie-Philip Poulin? After all, it is a gold medal game and Poulin is on the roster…there’s basically no other sure-fire formula for success than that in and of itself.
The second period saw Poulin on hat trick watch as she scored yet again, with the apples going to Brianne Jenner and Sarah Nurse. Nurse’s assist on what would eventually stand as the game-winner for Canada broke two records: the most points for a player in a single women’s Olympic tournament (18, beating Hayley Wickenheiser’s record of 17), and most assists by a player in a single women’s Olympic tournament (13).
While Poulin wouldn’t complete the hatty and Team USA wouldn’t complete the comeback, both were attempted — a shorthanded goal by American alternate captain Hilary Knight would get Team USA on the board before the end of the second period, and a goal by Amanda Kessel with 12 seconds left on the clock in the third period would narrow the margin to one.
Though it was a great last-ditch effort by the Americans, it wasn’t quite enough. Team USA, after trailing 3-1 for much of the third period and the game, struggled to beat Canada goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens and ultimately never held a lead — or much of a chance, to be honest.
We’re talking about a Canadian team that went 4-0 in pool play and 2-0 in the knockout round. They put up 10 goals on Switzerland in the semifinals. There was absolutely no slowing this squad down, and Team USA played kind of like they knew that.
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This Week in Women’s Hockey
After Olympic loss, it’s fair to question USA’s handling of young talent (The Hockey News)
Around the Rink in the PHF: Week 10 (The Ice Garden)
Five at the IX: Lesley Ryder of Gal Pal Sports
Lesley Ryder and her wife, Emily Anderson, founded Gal Pal Sports in 2019 to share all the news and excitement surrounding women’s sports and LGBT+ athletes. The IX sat down with Ryder to chat about Team Canada’s gold medal win and what comes next for the US.
Question: Give us your reactions to the Canadians taking home gold, one day removed. If so: How did you feel when Hilary Knight scored Team USA’s first shorthanded goal, and then Amanda Kessel’s goal with 12 seconds left on the clock?
Lesley Ryder: We’re in the middle of a move to the Chicagoland area right now, so we watched last night’s game sitting on some camping chairs.
The short-handed goal felt like a spark. It felt like Hilary Knight willed an opportunity for herself when the team needed a goal. But that’s the hope that gets you, isn’t it? USA has such a poor showing up to that point, you hope that this becomes the moment the tide turns.
The Kessel goal felt a little cruel— the timing, at least. Like, now? With 12 seconds left to get another? And sure, it was a power play goal, but it took an extra attacker, and at least one dropped Canada stick? It was all too little, too late.
Q: Natalie Spooner had a quote that nettled some American fans prior to the gold medal game — “Every time we go against them, we want to make a statement and show them that they don’t belong on the ice with us.” What was your reaction to this quote, and does it sting at all in the aftermath of a gold medal loss?
Ryder: I thought it was great! I love a good trash talk, especially when you’ve got the goods to back it up. You don’t see it in hockey like, ever. It’s kinda refreshing. I don’t know if “sting” is the feeling, it’s more like, well, was she wrong? There were some serious mistakes made.
Q: Despite a strong performance in pool play, Team USA wasn’t nearly as dominant in the knockout round. What do you think contributed to this?
Ryder: There were some exciting performances in the preliminary round! I was really surprised by the decision to bench so many players. The team looked tired, and when you look at the average ice time, it’s like, of course they’re tired! They’re averaging shifts almost a minute long — that’s too long for hockey!
Q: The next four years are going to see a lot of change…maybe. What changes would you like to see out of the coaching staff, USA Hockey, and for women’s hockey as a whole before Milan 2026?
Ryder: Short term: would love a new coach. I think too many questionable decisions were made. That news about bringing Cavallini to Beijing with an injury?? The dreary power play? That wisp of a forecheck they tried last night?
Long term: I’d like to see USA hockey make good on some promises from the 2017 strike. There’s still no equivalent to the men’s National Team Development Program for the women’s team, for example. I’d like to see other federations invest in their programs too. More camps, more tournaments, more opportunities to play at the highest level until the Olympics. I’ll keep wishing.
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