The United States won their fourth straight women’s world hockey championship with a 3-2 overtime win over Canada on Friday.
Hilary Knight scored the winner at 10:17 of the extra period in front of a sellout crowd of 3,500 at USA Hockey Arena.
“It hurts. There’s no doubt about that,” said Canada coach Laura Schuler.
“You never want to hear another person’s anthem.”
Kacey Bellamy scored twice for the Americans and goaltender Nicole Hensley made 28 saves in the win.
Canada and the U.S. have clashed for gold in all 18 women’s world championships dating back to Ottawa in 1990.
The U.S. has now won seven of the last eight gold medals, while Canada hasn’t finished first since 2012.
The American women have also run the table of titles this Olympic quadrennial since falling 3-2 in overtime to Canada in the gold-medal game of the 2014 Olympics.
Meghan Agosta and Brianne Jenner replied for Canada. Shannon Szabados made 37 saves in her first international women’s hockey final since the 2014 Olympics.
Canada scored once on five power-play chances, while the U.S. went 0-for-5.
The U.S. outshot Canada 15-6 in the third period. A series of Szabados saves during an American power play late in regulation sent the final to overtime for the fourth time in the last six world championships.
“The biggest thing to take out of this is to get more shots on net and more quality shots,” said Agosta.
“It’s really tough but we need to bounce back and focus on the things we’re not so good at it so that next time we’re in this situation we’re ready to do whatever it takes.”
After a scoreless second period, Jenner scored a power-play goal to tie it 2-2 at 9:44 of the third. The goal was initially waived off, but awarded after video review.
Hensley slid her pad back into the net while making the save and the puck crossed the goal line.
Bellamy scored put the U.S. up 2-1 just 42 seconds into the third off Knight’s between-the-legs, backhand pass.
Bellamy scored her first on a slapshot from the blue line through traffic at 4:34 of the first period.
Jennifer Wakefield gathered up a U.S. centring pass in front of Szabados and skated the puck back on an odd-man rush with Agosta, who beat Hensley stick side 61 seconds after the opening faceoff.
So why has Canada won four straight Olympic gold medals, but can’t beat the U.S. for world championship gold?
When it comes to the Olympics, the Canadians have the advantage in preparation as they play about 30 games against midget triple-A boys during their six months of preparation.
They’re more battled-hardened and their execution of systems is superior.
But when both teams have just a few days of training camp prior to the world championship, the U.S. women’s individual talent and speed take over.
Those edges are slight, however. Five of the last six world championship finals have been decided by one goal.
The American women were an empowered group upon their delayed arrival in Plymouth.
Tired of negotiations they said were going nowhere, the host team threatened to boycott the tournament if USA Hockey didn’t increase their financial support more in line with what the men get.
They carried their point in the showdown with their federation. Over 100 women inside and outside the national team pool joined the movement and refused USA Hockey’s invitation to be replacement players.
According to The Associated Press, their compensation during the six months they’re together training full time for the Olympics tripled to roughly $3,000 per month.
They got the same insurance protection and business class travel the men get to the world championship.
The U.S. didn’t get a full training camp because of the dispute, but that didn’t hamper them.
“The negotiation process took a toll and our camp was shorter, but knew it was going to be a bond that was unbreakable,” said Knight.
They opened the tournament beating Canada 2-0 and allowed just five goals in five games.
Finland won bronze Friday with an 8-0 win over Germany. Fourth is the best result ever for that country.
The Finns are now playing a system capable of beating Canada and the U.S.
The question is whether they can maintain their gains on the North Americans next winter when Canada and the U.S. take big strides forward as full-time teams.
“Those financial resources, we don’t have,” head coach Pasi Mustonen said.
“We have to find a medicine for that. Our medicine probably will be that those aspiring for a spot on the roster have to practise with boys during the season. Now it’s time for the Finnish male hockey to show they really want to support us . . . offer a spot for every member of the women’s team to practise with boys’ teams.”
Russia placed fifth and Sweden sixth. Switzerland downed the Czech Republic 3-1 to win the relegation round, but the Czechs may not be relegated to the second-tier world championships.
Women’s world championships are not held in Olympic years. Increasing from eight to 10 countries in 2019 will be put to a vote at the International Ice Hockey Federation congress in May.
This year’s world championship averaged 800 spectators per game at USA Hockey Arena, which houses two rinks.