The U.S. women's hockey team owns Olympic gold for the first time in 20 years, after breaking Canada's remarkable streak of success in a gripping final at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. The only previous U.S. win had come in the tournament's first year, in 1998.
When the American women finally received their gold medals, they were placed on their necks by former player Angela Ruggiero — who was on the last U.S. Olympic team to win it all.
This game was far from easy — for the players on either side, and for their fans. Regulation time had ended with a 2-2 tie — and when a 20-minute overtime didn't produce a sudden-death goal, a penalty shootout also ended in a 2-2 tie. That sent it to a sudden-death shootout to decide who would wear gold.
Canada had taken the first shot in the first round of the shootout — and to lead off the second, the U.S. sent Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson skating out.
"The last shootout against Canada, I looked like an idiot," Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said after the game.
But since that past failure, the American said, she's been working on her penalty shots — and it showed on Thursday.
Starting from center ice, Lamoureux-Davidson used some artful stick handling to get the puck around and past Canada's goalie, changing directions several times. It confounded Canada's goalie Shannon Szabados, who had shone in this game.
That left it to U.S. goalkeeper Maddie Rooney, 20, to withstand the pressure and make one last save — against one of the most adept scorers in the game, in Canada's Meghan Agosta, a veteran who began her Olympics career in 2006. When Rooney foiled Agosta's shot, both the game and the U.S. gold drought were over, after three hours of intense and physical play and tension at the Gangneung Hockey Center.
"We worked on this a lot. I was basically trying to do the same thing [as on her first, successful try in the shootout], but she was out too far," Agosta said later. "It just so happened it didn't work out the way I wanted it to."
"I just reacted to her and then everything kind of went into a blur," Rooney said, "When she cut across like that, a lot of people tend to go five hole so I kind of anticipated it."
After she made the save, Rooney said, "Everything got into a blur, seeing my teammates sprinting at me. It's an indescribable feeling."
Her teammates were scrambling over the bench wall; gloves were flying all over the ice as the Americans finally celebrated at the end of an Olympic tournament. When they reached Rooney, they piled on.
"It was all black," the goalie said when asked to describe it. "I was on the bottom."
In shootouts, teams can choose any player to take the penalty shots. U.S. coach Robb Stauber said later, "We picked some of the right players because our players did well in the shootout. Certainly one better — and that's all it took."
U.S. forward Hilary Knight, who now has a gold medal to go with her two Olympic silvers, said, "This is an outstanding team. I think I'm sort of bittersweet right now that the journey is over just because these women are incredible and I really wish that you could be in the locker room to experience what we experienced. It's a dream come true."
For the first time in this millennium, the dream of gold died for Canada, and the pain of losing their way into a silver medal was evident on the faces of many players, who wept during the post-game ceremony. Most notably, Canada's Jocelyne Larocque took her silver medal off of her neck almost as soon as she received it.
"We were going for gold," the Canadian defender told reporters later. "We were chasing a gold medal."