The United States won the first gold medal in Olympic women's hockey Tuesday, settling a decade-long grudge against Canada and beating its rival at its own game behind Sarah Tueting's incredible goal tending.
After falling four times to Canada in World Championship games since 1990, the U.S. team got 22 saves from Tueting to win 3-1.
"It's everything I thought it would be," said U.S. forward Alana Blahoski, "and I can't think of 19 people I'd want to share this with more."
It was the second time the Americans had defeated their rivals in four days, and gave the United States its first Olympic hockey gold medal since the men's team pulled off the Miracle on Ice in 1980.
"They know us, we know them," Blahoski said. "There were not a lot of tricks left to pull."
Sticks and gloves flew skyward as the U.S. team emptied the bench and mobbed Tueting at the buzzer. Defenseman Angela Ruggiero skated the length of the ice to grab the puck from the Canadian end, then threw her helmet in the air as alternate captain Karyn Bye wrapped a flag around herself.
The Canadians were left to stand glumly on the ice with bronze medalist Finland, waiting while the U.S. players first went to their locker room, then returned for the medal ceremony.
Bye led the way, fists clenched over her head, then hugged captain Cammi Granato as their teammates lined up on either side of Tueting.
The U.S. women held hands while waiting for their gold medals and waved small American flags.
On Saturday, the United States rallied from a 4-1 third-period deficit to win 7-4 in a game filled with penalties and skirmishes. This time, there was less physical play and more end-to-end action as Tueting and Canadian goalie Manon Rheaume traded outstanding saves.
The Americans were assessed only eight penalty minutes; the Canadians, just six.
The U.S. team, which took 30 minutes in penalties Saturday to Canada's 18, worked on its penalty killing in practice Monday and kept Canada without a shot on two second-period power plays.
The most contentious moment came in the first period when Canada's Karen Nystrom tried to dislodge the puck from under Tueting and was shoved back by U.S. defenseman Chris Bailey.
Gretchen Ulion, frustrated on one point-blank shot in the scoreless first period, made good 2@1/2 minutes into the second, taking Sandra Whyte's pass from the corner and slapping a shot from the right circle past Rheaume.
Shelley Looney of Trenton, Michigan, made it 2-0 midway through the third, deflecting Whyte's shot by Rheaume.
anielle Goyette scored with 4:01 to play to pull Canada within a goal, but then Whyte scored into an empty net with 8 seconds remaining as Tueting jumped into the air with glee.
"It's a silver medal at the Olympics. I can't be upset with that," Canada's Judy Diduck said. "The experience of being here was tremendous. We just didn't have the legs for two periods. In the third period, we got started but it was too late."
The Canadians, who beat the United States in seven of 13 pre-Olympic games, didn't perform as well as expected in Japan. They looked sluggish and inconsistent in most games despite the vastly inferior competition they and the Americans routinely face.
After the game, Canadian coach Shannon Miller said she felt "emptiness," but said her feelings changed when she saw the gold medal going around the neck of U.S. captain Cammi Granato.
"I had a feeling of joy go through my body because I realized an Olympic gold medal was being hung on a female hockey player," Miller said, "and I couldn't believe the impact it had on me."
Of the U.S.-Canada rivalry, she said: "I guess the gap's been closed."
Written by Margaret Lillard