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'Captain Clutch' clinches it

China Daily | Updated: 2022-02-18 10:04
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Canada's players celebrate after beating the United States in the Beijing 2022 women's ice hockey final at Wukesong Sports Centre in Beijing on Thursday. ZHANG WEI/CHINA DAILY

Ever-reliable Poulin the hero again as Canada prevails in ice hockey thriller

Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin made the remarkable seem almost routine on Thursday, clinching the Olympic gold medal-winning goal yet again in a career that shows no sign of slowing down.

Canada's calm "Captain Clutch" developed a reputation as a quiet leader in Beijing but was anything but on Thursday, putting up 11 assists and two goals to devastate archrivals the United States 3-2.

It was the third time that Canada won the gold off a Poulin shot, a staggering achievement that dumbfounded even her own teammates.

"She found a way to get another game winner in a gold medal match-I'm not sure how she does that," said netminder Ann-Renee Desbiens, who made a remarkable 38 saves on Thursday to help Canada to its fifth gold.

"She is obviously our leader and one of the big reasons we won. The way she carries herself on and off the ice is truly something special.

"I don't know a more deserving captain to win the gold medal for us."

She scored both goals in her team's shutout win over the US in the 2010 Olympic final when she was just 18 years old and clinched it in overtime in Sochi, cementing herself as one of the most beloved stars in hockey-mad Canada.

"She is just such a competitor. She is someone that thrives in these gold medal situations. She thrives on these opportunities," said Rebecca Johnston, her teammate through three Olympics including their devastating silver-medal turn in Pyeongchang, where the US ended their run of four straight golds.

The 30-year-old said she's not done yet, after leading the Canadian demolition in Beijing, telling reporters she would consider vying for a spot on a fifth Olympic roster in 2026.

"I love training. I love doing extra reps so much. I love doing that extra mile when nobody is watching. It pays off," said Poulin.

"Sometimes it's hard, sometimes you ask yourself why are you doing it, but when you look down and see that gold medal you realize why."

US loses Decker

Two weeks before facing Canada in the women's hockey final, the Americans watched first-line center and arguably their best player, Brianna Decker, get stretchered off the ice with a broken leg early in the tournament opener.

Try as they might to fill the gaping hole in their lineup, missing Decker proved to be too much to overcome in a 3-2 loss to the Canadians in the gold-medal game Thursday.

"I think that we did a good job coming back with it and sticking together as a team," said winger Amanda Kessel, whose goal with 13 seconds left was part of a frantic finish. "But it definitely didn't help us, and we definitely missed her out there."

Replacement Abby Roque couldn't cash in on the scoring chances that Decker might have. Even though Hilary Knight scored her sixth goal in Beijing and Kessel made things interesting in the final minute, the top-end talent for Canada came through in the clutch.

With Decker watching on the glass steps away from the bench, the US fell short and settled for silver for a fourth time since women's hockey was introduced at the 1998 Nagano Games.

"It's devastating. It's heartbreaking," Knight said. "It definitely stings. It hurts. It feels like we let our country down."


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