United States golden again after Knight’s clutch heroics against Canada

USA players pose for photos after winning gold at the IIHF Women's World Hockey Championship hockey action against the Canada in Brampton, Ont., on Sunday, April 16, 2023. (Frank Gunn/CP)

BRAMPTON, Ont. – The United States are golden once more.  

Defeating Canada 6-3 on Sunday night at the CAA Centre, the U.S. earned their first gold medal at the IIHF Women’s World Championship since 2019. 

Many considered Canada — the two-time defending champions — the favourite to win after they beat the U.S. in their preliminary round game on Monday and had the advantage of playing at home. But the Canadians collapsed in the third period, allowing Hilary Knight to orchestrate a comeback win for her American team that never lead in the game until the final three minutes of play. 

“We definitely felt like an underdog … but somehow we persevered, and it feels sweeter that way,” said Knight after the win.   

“That losing streak had to end at some point, glad it was today” added USA head coach John Wroblewski. “Certainly not the script that you would’ve thought there at the end, how it just turned pretty quickly, but those are the ebbs and flows of international hockey.” 

In front of a crowd of mostly red and white, though some blue sprinkled throughout, the two teams appropriately came out of the gate ready to face their long-time rival. It was 60 minutes of hard and fast play between two teams that rarely find themselves with a significant edge over the other.  

Coming up big for Canada — as she tends to do in these final games — captain Marie-Philip Poulin was the first to strike with a power play goal after back-to-back penalties to USA skaters resulted in a two-man advantage. Hanging out in the right faceoff circle, Poulin was left relatively undefended as her teammates passed around the puck in the U.S. zone. Her quick shot off a pass from Eric Ambrose made its way past goaltender Aerin Frankel and into the net. 

While Ann-Renee Desbiens made some massive saves to keep the U.S. at bay for most of the period, a puck shot along the boards by Alex Carpenter made its way to Abbey Murphy who rushed the ice on a one-on-one. Shooting five-hole on Desbiens, Murphy scored to tie the game at one apiece with less than two minutes to play in the first. 

“Abbey Murphy’s goal to get (us) on the board … was phenomenal. That got us in the game,” Knight said.  

Canada kicked off the second period by holding off USA’s tournament-leading power play — with a 52.4 per cent success rate heading into the gold medal game — after Blayre Turnbull took a tripping penalty. A few minutes after returning to even strength, Brianne Jenner scored to put Canada back up by one in what was the start of a sequence of goals. 

Knight responded back for the U.S. with her first of the game after a two-on-one rush to Canada’s net saw her and Amanda Kessel combine for the tying goal. 

But the back-and-forth scoring affair didn’t stop there. Jenner netted her second of the night, a tip-in of Renata Fast’s shot, to put Canada back in the lead yet again.  

Following those three goals — that took place in the span of a little over four and a half minutes — Desbiens and Frankel managed to keep their respective nets empty for the remaining 10 minutes of the period and maintain a 3-2 score. 

Unsurprisingly, that changed in the third period. 

What did surprise many, though, was the way Canada’s game subsequently fell apart. 

“We were in a game that we expected to be in and just don’t like the way it ended,” Canada’s head coach Troy Ryan reflected. “I thought we made some great adjustments in the first period; it was quite sloppy. Our second period was great, and I thought things were heading in the right direction in the third until we took a couple of penalties.”

USA’s Caroline Harvey scored unassisted to tie the game at three apiece 5:40 into the final 20. Her goal was followed by a string of penalties to each side and after some undisciplined play from Canada, the U.S. made the most out of a two-man advantage. Or more accurately, Knight made the most of it. 

“At that point in the game it’s difficult to go down by two, and obviously the U.S. capitalized,” said Ryan.

With Jenner in the box for tripping and Claire Thompson in for a delay of game call, Knight got her second of the night (and point No. 100) to put her team in the lead for the first time all game. And still on the power play, Knight struck again just 27 seconds later to earn the hat trick and her 101st point at this tournament. 

“It’s amazing to see,” Harvey said about her captain’s three-goal night.  

“(It’s) not out of character for her, she’s pretty remarkable. She’s always just in the right place at the right time. I suppose I could say she’s unbelievable. I can’t say enough good things about her.” 

Any chance for Canada to make a comeback was officially spoiled when USA’s Cayla Barnes potted an empty netter with 1:58 to go. 

“There’s a lot of moments in that game (where) I think it’d be easy to deflect blame elsewhere, but I think we have to look at ourselves,” said Jenner. “We’ve got to figure out a way to hold those leads.

“I think we’re in a little bit of disbelief. Not that we don’t know the opponent is a great hockey team, but we just believe so fully in our group. So even when we’re down, a couple minutes left, we’re still thinking we’re gonna find a way.” 

With the U.S winning gold by a three-goal margin, this marks the first time since 2009 that a final at the Women’s Worlds was decided by more than two goals. 

The Americans will have the chance to defend their No. 1 title on home soil after it was announced earlier Sunday that the 2024 tournament is set to be held in Utica, N.Y.  

When asked if Canada was already thinking about getting some revenge, Poulin replied “for sure.” 

Elsewhere at the tournament:

Finland 3, Sweden 1 

The first game of the day saw Finland and Sweden face off to determine who would take the fifth and sixth-place finishes. Earning the win, Finland will now return to Group A for the 2024 Women’s Worlds. This year had been their first time playing in Group B for the tournament’s preliminary round.

Coming in sixth, Sweden finishes one spot ahead of their result from last year. Swedish captain Anna Kjellbin opened the game’s scoring, which ultimately was the only goal their team would score.

Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski tied up the game with a power-play tally. Kiiri Yrjanen gave Finland the lead in the second period and another power-play goal — this time from Noora Tulus — put them up by two with minutes remaining in the third. Despite Finland receiving a late penalty and Sweden pulling their goaltender, which resulted in a six-on-four opportunity, the Swedes were unable to battle back before the final buzzer.

Czechia 3, Switzerland 2

The Czechs are back-to-back bronze medalists after defeating Switzerland to earn their second medal ever at the Women’s Worlds. It was a repeat of last year’s game with both the same teams and same result.

The Swiss were the first to strike with a goal coming from captain Lara Stalder in the first, but Denisa Krizova and Michaela Pejzlova each netted one by the end of the period to give Czechia the lead. The second period saw Lena Marie Lutz score for Switzerland to put the game back at even terms, until another goal from Krizova restored Czechia’s lead heading into the third. Getting outshot by the Czechs 33-13, Switzerland’s Andrea Braendli kept her team within reach. However, similar to the earlier game, the Swiss had a two-man advantage with minutes to go that they ultimately could not capitalize on to force overtime.

Final results at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship:  

Gold: United States
Silver: Canada
Bronze: Czechia 
Fourth: Switzerland 
Fifth: Finland 

Sixth: Sweden 
Seventh: Japan 
Eighth: Germany 
Ninth: Hungary  
10th: France 

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