By DONNA SPENCER
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Laura Fortino felt like every single person in the Bolshoy Ice screaming "Shoot!"
Dome was The Canadian defenceman had the puck on her stick in overtime of the Olympic women's hockey final in 2014.
"I even had Hayley Wickenheiser beside me yelling 'Fortie, just shoot it,' " Fortino recalled.
"I had all that going through my head."
But Fortino faked a shot to draw the U.S. defenders to her and flipped the puck left to Marie-Philip Poulin.
"I saw their fore-checker come right at me and I knew a faked shot would be appropriate at that moment," Fortino said. "I saw Marie at the corner of my eye wide open."
Hockey finals between Canadian and American women are routinely filled with head-grabbing moments, but the goldmedal game in Sochi, Russia, took the drama to another level.
For the Canadian women who will attempt to defend that gold in Pyeongchang, their most vivid memory of their 3-2 win over the United States four years ago is a dead heat between Poulin's golden goal and the goal post.
Had Kelli Stack been centimetres right with a shot from the boards in Canada's zone, an empty-net goal would have given the Americans a 3-1 lead with 90 seconds remaining in regulation.
The puck striking the goal post instead and wobbling to the edge of the blue paint is frozen not only in the minds of the players, but anyone who talks to them about that game.
"The goal post. They want to know about the goal post, the famous goal post," forward Haley Irwin said.
Stack had to angle the puck by a linesman and Canadian defenceman Catherine Ward to get it on net. That Stack was a hair wide felt to the Canadian women like the hand of fate giving them the thumbs-up.
"The moment I'll remember forever is the puck hitting that post and the feeling of gratitude towards that post was probably the best moment of my life," forward Rebecca Johnston said.
"It was almost like the hockey gods telling us that this was our game to win."
There were other moments in that game where the result hung in the balance. Here is a look at some of them:
The freezing in defenceman Meaghan Mikkelson's broken right hand wore off by the second period. Another injection completely numbed her fingers in the third when Canada trailed 2-0.
So instead of a tape-to-tape pass to Brianne Jenner, Mikkelson put the puck off the neutral-zone boards for Jenner to grab and accelerate into the American zone.
Jenner scored at 16:34 with a shot that deflected off the knee of U.S. defenceman Kacey Bellamy.
"Mikkelson was my roommate at the Olympics and she said at the after-party 'You know I had to make that pass off the boards to you because I didn't have the strength in my broken hand to make it direct,' " Jenner said.
"It ended up working out well that she put it off the boards and I was able to pick up speed and skate into it."
After the puck slid down the ice and bounced off the goal post, seconds were hemorrhaging off the clock. Meghan Agosta felt desperate for a whistle.
"I was on the ice, I was the first person back, and thinking 'Just get there, just get there, skate and as soon as you get the puck' - hoping it wasn't going to go in - 'As soon as you get the puck turn it up ice, get a shot on net so we can get a whistle,"' the forward said.
"I recall picking it up after we hit the post, doing just that."
Head coach Kevin Dineen called a time out with 74 seconds remaining in regulation.
A veteran NHL player and coach, but new to women's international hockey, Dineen reminded the Canadians of their roles in a six-on-five scenario, as Shannon Szabados stayed out of Canada's net for an extra attacker.
"You know what? There was still plenty of time. A minute is plenty of time for us to score a goal," Dineen said.
"My first thought was we didn't need some spectacular play right off the bat. What we needed to do was reinforce the things we had talked about as far as how we would play six versus five and what everybody's roles were."
U.S. goaltender Jessie Vetter deflected Johnston's pass from behind the net out front, where Poulin pounced on the puck going backhand to forehand to score with 55 seconds left.
"You have people in different roles and none more important than your player that's kind of a wild card in the middle of the ice," Dineen explained.
"The person that's on the loose, the person that can sense opportunity, that has the best hockey sense to realize where a rebound is going, where the open ice is, where opportunity can present itself.
"Sure enough on a big stage, there was nobody better than Pou to have in that spot. You put a big-game player into that kind of a role and they can pounce on it and she certainly did."
Szabados made four saves in the opening minute of four-onfour overtime, with none bigger than coming out of her crease to challenge Bellamy and deflect a blast wide with her glove.
"I remember just kind of getting out there and then just being like 'I need to get any piece of this' so it wasn't probably a textbook save, but one that I needed to make," Szabados said.
Canadian and American minor penalties within six seconds of each other made the international ice seem even bigger with just three players aside.
Hilary Knight hauling down Wickenheiser on a breakaway had the Canadian bench screaming for a penalty shot, but they settled for getting a fourth player out for another power play-chance.
Poulin's snapshot for the OT winner at 8:10 sparked explosive celebrations back in Canada. But Poulin says she had the best seat in the house.
"I don't even think I looked up when I shot," she said.
"What I remember the most about the game was when we got that overtime goal, just to turn around and look at the bench, seeing that excitement and seeing my teammates jumping on the ice so fast to be able to celebrate together."
In a Calgary airport bar, Hockey Canada's director of female hockey managed feeble high-fives with euphoric patrons.
Ill in bed during the Olympics with an inflamed gallbladder, the most direct flights Melody Davidson could get from Sochi home to Calgary for much-needed surgery were the day of the gold-medal game.
Her plane landed just in time for her to see overtime.
"I was so weak. I walked off the plane and the concierge was there and she said 'Come on, come on, we tied it up,' " Davidson said. "My sister was there to pick me up.
"We just sat down at the start of the overtime and Poulin scored."
Within hours, Davidson was getting prepped for surgery.
"Of course, the anaesthesiologist and the other people in there, they were all fans and talking about the game and asking questions," she said.
"I tell you when I woke up, I felt great. We'd won and I didn't have any more pain."
Lauriane Rougeau, Rebecca Johnston and Laura Fortino, left to right, celebrate after defeating the U.S. 3-2 in overtime for gold at the 2014 Olympics.
PAUL CHIASSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS