Captain Clutch on her Golden Goal for Canada
When captain Marie-Philip Poulin sniped the overtime winner to send Canada to its first gold-medal victory since 2012 at the IIHF Women’s World Championship Tuesday night, it ended years of heartbreak at the tournament for the Canadians.
After sitting on a disappointing bronze medal for the last two years and losing several gold-medal games to the United States during the last decade, Canada is back on top after they found the right mix of veterans and youth to get the job done in Calgary.
Missing almost the entire 2019 tournament, Poulin’s return was welcomed both for her on-ice ability and leadership. Authoring her third golden goal for Canada after leading the country to gold at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, Poulin reminded everyone that she is the best player in women’s hockey.
While Poulin is a big reason why Canada won gold, she is far from the sole reason. Here are five things we learned about Canada at the Women’s World Hockey Championship.
1. Mélodie Daoust is a superstar
It seems unfathomable that a two-time Olympic medallist and Olympic MVP would come into a tournament under the radar.
However, Daoust, who has often found herself in the shadow of teammate and close friend Poulin, made sure everyone would pay attention to her with a dominant performance at this year’s worlds.
In just her second career worlds at age 29, Daoust led the tournament in goals (six) and points (12) and was named best forward and tournament MVP. Playing with fellow veteran Natalie Spooner and 21-year-old rising star Sarah Fillier, the “Fill Da Spoon” line was Canada’s most dangerous all tournament long.
From her days at McGill, to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League to Team Canada, Daoust has produced everywhere she has played. She deserves to be talked about not just as one of Canada’s best players, but as one of the best in the game.
2. The kids are more than all right
With eight players making their worlds debuts, Canada’s youth demonstrated they were more than ready to take on even bigger roles going forward.
Led by Fillier, who had three goals and six points in seven games, she demonstrated why she is considered Canada’s “Next One.” Between the hands, skating and hockey IQ, Fillier was a threat every time she was on the ice.
Up front, Victoria Bach, Emma Maltais and Kristin O’Neill also made their debuts. Bach saw a lot of ice time with Poulin while Maltais and O’Neill were utilized primarily as energy players. Maltais in particular showed strong acumen on the penalty kill.
On defence, youth was on full display. Claire Thompson (23), Ella Shelton (23) and Ashton Bell (21) all made their tournament debuts while 22-year-old Jaime Bourbonnais returned for her second.
While veterans Jocelyne Larocque, Renata Fast and Erin Ambrose played heavy minutes for Canada, the young ‘D’ demonstrated all tournament long they were more than capable of playing big roles.
All had their moments but Thompson stood out in particular with her poise playing alongside Ambrose. With four assists in Calgary, the former Princeton Tiger had never played for Canada at any level coming into the tournament but her performance showed she could be a key piece on the back end for years to come.
3. Secondary scoring the key
When it was announced that Poulin would miss the preliminary game against the United States after taking a puck to the neck/throat area in the previous game, there was concern how Canada would fare against their biggest rival without their captain.
Those fears were quickly put to bed as Jamie Lee Rattray, Daoust, Fast and Sarah Nurse all hit the scoresheet in a dominant 5-1 victory over the Americans.
Not losing a single game, Canada’s scoring depth was one of the biggest reasons why they won. Canada led the tournament with 34 goals with Daoust, Fillier and Spooner combining for 13 goals and 27 points.
Assistant captain Brianne Jenner had three goals and 11 points in six games and Rattray, who didn’t see a lot of ice time and was often listed as the 13th forward, had four goals, including the game-tying goal in the gold-medal game.
4. Goaltending depth
When Ann-Renée Desbiens let in two goals on six shots early in the gold-medal game as the Americans took a 2-0 lead, Canadian hockey fans held their breath.
But after allowing those two early goals, Desbiens locked it down the rest of the way, not letting in a single goal for the remainder of the game.
At times especially early in the tournament, Desbiens looked shaky but grew more comfortable as the worlds progressed but saved her best work for when Canada needed her most.
Emerance Maschmeyer, who recorded shutouts in both games she played in, saw minimal shots but looked sharp.
Third goaltender Kristen Campbell didn’t see any game action but the fact the 23-year-old was chosen for the centralization roster ahead of established veteran Geneviève Lacasse says a lot about how the coaching staff believes in Campbell.
5. Management and coaching staff found the right mix
There is a lot of pressure on the Canadian coaching staff and management to choose the team that gives them the best chance to win. And the pressure is even greater when the team hasn’t won a major championship in a long time.
Since winning their last world championship in 2012, Canada has had five different head coaches, including current coach Troy Ryan. Ryan, who has been with the team since 2016 and took over the helm in January 2020, had the tall task of trying to coach Canada to its first gold medal in nine years and pick an Olympic centralization roster.
Management was not without scrutiny heading into the tournament. Veterans Laura Fortino, Brigette Lacquette and Lacasse were left off the roster as were talented youngsters Loren Gabel, Élizabeth Giguère and Daryl Watts.
At the end of the day, the coaching staff found the right mix. The youngsters proved they were ready while the veterans had an extra jump in their step. It was one of the fastest teams Canada had iced at this tournament and the pace they played with left other teams overwhelmed.
With the tournament wrapped up, the focus for Team Canada now turns to the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. Now the reigning world champions, Canada has that extra bit of confidence they haven’t had in a long time as they look to usurp the Americans once again, but this time on the Olympic stage.