Olympic heartbreak for Daoust and teammates

Mélodie Daoust is named MVP of the women's Olympic hockey tournament but Canada loses the gold medal game to their rivals from the United States in a shootout.
McGill grad Mélodie Daoust battles Megan Keller of the United States. / Photo: Vincent Ethier, courtesy Canadian Olympic Committee

McGill grad named tournament MVP 

For most people an Olympic silver medal would be a dream come true. But the heartbreak of second place was etched in the faces of the Canadian women’s hockey team, following a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss to their bitter rivals from the United States in last night’s gold medal game.

The loss snaps the Canadian women’s Olympic win streak at 24 games. They had won four straight Olympic gold medals following the last loss, which came also against the U.S. in the gold medal game at Nagano 1998.

Following the game, McGill grad Mélodie Daoust was named tournament MVP, and was voted to the Olympic all-star team. Daoust scored three goals and four assists in five Olympic games in PyeongChang.

Last night’s game marked the third-straight Olympics in which the two hockey juggernauts squared off for the gold medal. Since women’s ice hockey made its debut at Nagano in 1998, the rivals have met in the tournament final in all but one Olympics.

Typical of almost every Canada–U.S. hockey showdown, last night’s game was rife with end-to-end action, momentum swings, punishing physicality and an abundance of drama.

The Canadians dug themselves into a hole in the first period, taking three consecutive penalties. The calls raised the ire of Canadian fans at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, including ice dance gold medallist Scott Moir, who was seen jumping from his seat, beer in hand, to shout “are you kidding me?” at the referees after Canada’s Sarah Nurse took a slashing penalty late in the first.

Nurse’s penalty proved costly, as U.S. hockey icon Hilary Knight deflected Sidney Moran’s shot past Canada’s Shannon Szabados to give the United States a 1-0 lead with just 26 seconds left in the first.

The resilient Canadians clawed back in the second period, tying the game two minutes into the frame when Haley Irwin redirected Blayre Turnbull’s saucer pass through the pads of American netminder Maddie Rooney.

Much to the delight of Canadians fans, including those back home who stayed up until the early morning to watch the game, Canada took its first lead off the stick of Marie-Philip Poulin, who took a feed from Meghan Agostabeat and beat a screened Rooney at 6:55. With five goals in three gold medal games, Poulin has made a name for herself as one of the clutch performers in Olympic hockey history.

A desperate U.S. squad came out strong in the third period. Knight sent a cross crease pass to Brianna Decker, but the puck was poked away by Szabados while Poulin made heavy contact with the American forward. But the Americans tied the game at 13:39 when Monique Lamoureux swooped in on a breakaway and beat Szabados with a wrist shot. The game stayed knotted at 2-2 until the buzzer sounded to end regulation time.

Playing four-on-four in overtime, the Americans looked like they had the fresher legs, forcing the play and putting relentless pressure on the Canadians. Szabados kept her team in the game with a number of outstanding saves.

In the shootout, Daoust was poised to be the hero, scoring a spectacular goal in the fourth round to put the Canadians up by one. By the next U.S. shooter, Amanda Kessel, tied it and the Americans went on to win in the sixth round when netminder Maddie Rooney shut the door on Meghan Agosta, giving the Americans a 3-2 shootout win.