International Ice Hockey Federation

Snodgrass in overtime

US rallies to win gold, 3-2

Published 16.01.2016 05:01 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Snodgrass in overtime
ST. CATHARINES, CANADA - JANUARY 15: Members of Team United States react after defeating Team Canada 3-2 to win the gold medal at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Natalie Snodgrass backhanded a loose puck into the net from the top of the crease at 1:47 of overtime to give Team USA another gold medal at the women's U18s.

"I was in the right spot at the right time," Snodgrass beamed. "It was a nice shot from the point, deflected. I missed it the first time but buried the rebound. I threw my gloves in the air!"

"The bounces didn't go our way, but they played well," Canadian forward Emma Maltais said. "We put our best out there. We're upset with the loss but proud of how we represented our country."

Snodgrass' goal means the Americans get to take home a second straight gold. The States have now won five of the nine WW18 events played.

"This team has worked so hard. It's incredible to be able to repeat. We're incredibly excited," Snodgrass said. In addition to the game winner, she also scored the tying goal in the third period. "it was the most exciting game I've ever been in."

Canada had built up a 2-0 lead through good puck pressure, but the Americans patiently worked their legs into the game and moved into a gear Canada couldn't quite match.

"To win it here, on their home turf, is amazing," said goaltender Alex Gulstene, who was sensational when she needed to be. "It's beyond words."

The seats were full. The suites were full. The standing-room section was full. The biggest crowd ever to watch an IIHF WW18 game--5,516--watched another thrilling chapter in the Canada-United States rivalry.

Never before have these players skated in front of so many people, and given the incredible tension of the gold-medal circumstances, players from both teams played with nerves for the first 20 minutes. Speed? There was plenty. End-to-end action? Check.

But giveaways were many and incomplete passes, too. The stakes were too high to make a mistake. Shifts were lightning short, but the crowd enjoyed every moment all the same.

Canada thought it scored at 13:59 of the first period on a jam play to the side of the goal, but Gulstene got her pad over to the post in time to make a great save.

Three minutes later, though, the hosts put a goal on the board. It came off a broken rush, but when it mattered the most Jaime Bourbonnais whipped a quick shot on goal that Gulstene couldn’t stop.

Those nerves gave way to thrilling hockey once the second period started. First up was a U.S. power play during which the team did everything but tie the game. A bad bounce, a bit of bad luck, a nice save from Stephanie Neatby, and the game stayed 1-0.

As soon as Canada returned to full strength, it went on the attack. Just as it seemed the U.S. had weathered the storm, American defenceman Grace Bowlby hit a teammate with a pass, and the puck came right to Daryl Watts. She calmly took aim and drilled a great shot over the shoulder of Gulstene at 5:58 to make it 2-0.

Moments later, Ryleigh Houston was sprung on a breakaway, but Gulstene made a sensational save to keep her team in the game.

"I'm not thinking anything," Gulstene said of the save. "I'm just reading the play, looking where her stick was, just being in the moment."

"They dominated the first half of the game," Snodgrass acknowledged. "The game was theirs."

That save loomed large later in the period. Canadian defenceman Codie Cross was slow on the puck at the U.S. blue line and was stripped of it by Alex Woken. Woken barreled down the ice and snapped a nice shot between Neatby’s pads at 15:00 to cut Canada’s lead in half.

"It definitely changed things when they scored that goal," Maltais acknowledged. 

Soon after, Kristin O’Neill made a thrilling rush, only to be stopped cold by Gulstene again. The stage was set for a final period of hockey, Canada cliniging to the slimmest of leads.

"We got some momentum from that goal," Snodgrass said. "Coach Johnson came in the room and said, 'Don't doubt.' That really relaxed a lot of players."

The Americans poured it on in the third and were rewarded. A shot went wide, but Snodgrass scooped it up and tried a wraparound. It hit a Canadian defender in front and bounced in at 8:03 to tie the score. 

"I took the faceoff because I'm the only left-handed forward," Snodgrass explained. "The plan was for me to tap it ahead, but that didn't work out. The puck went behind the net. I got it and wrapped it around. I didn't see where it went, but then I saw it in the goal. I wasn't sure what to do, so I just jumped up and down."

Lisa Riley, Canada's coach, felt the difference between winning and losing was minute. "What was the turning point?," she asked rhetorically. "The breakaway in the second period? The short-handed breakaway? With 25 seconds to go in the third, we had a great opportunity. What was the turning point? It's hard to say. I know we played the kind of offence we wanted to. Credit to their goaltender--she made timely saves."