For the first time ever, the U.S. is the World Champion of women’s hockey by virtue of a 3-1 shootout victory over Canada after 80 minutes of scoreless hockey. Recent Harvard graduate Angela Ruggiero ’04 and Minnesota junior Krissy Wendell, the past two Patty Kazmaier winners, scored the two decisive shootout goals for the U.S. and Chanda Gunn (Northeastern ’04) stopped all 26 Canadian shots and three of four shootout attempts.
Despite beating Canada for the first Olympic women’s gold in 1998, the U.S. had lost all previous eight World Championship finals contested to Canada as well as the 2002 Olympic final in Salt Lake City. The U.S. win ended a long run as bridesmaid for team captain Cammi Granato (Providence ’93), who played on all eight of the previous silver-winning teams before finally accepting gold at the end of this one. Canada took home silver despite outscoring opponents 38-0 prior to the shootout.
The U.S. outshot Canada 49-26 in regulation, but it took a five-round shootout to finally crack the scoreboard. Minnesota junior Natalie Darwitz of the U.S. and Harvard freshman Sarah Vaillancourt of Canada exchanged scores to lead off the shootout. Ruggiero drew Canadian goalie Kim St. Pierre down and finished on the backhand, and Gunn stopped 2002 Olympic MVP Hayley Wickenheiser of Canada short-side to secure a U.S. advantage after the second round.
In the third round, Yale freshman Helen Resor of the U.S. and tournament top goal scorer Jayna Hefford of Canada exchanged misses, before Wendell scored to give the U.S. a comfortable 3-1 advantage in the fourth round. With the pressure on, Gunn stopped UMD senior Caroline Ouellette to clinch the victory for the United States.
The final scheduled shooters were Granato, the longtime U.S. captain, and Jennifer Botterill (Harvard ’03), the MVP for Canada in the last two World championships, but the 3-1 margin meant their services were no longer required. Granato had scored the game-winner for the U.S. in its last shootout against Canada – the 2003 Four Nations Cup final, also played in Sweden, which required a dozen shots on each side before anyone scored.
For Gunn and Ruggiero, two longtime friends who grew up together in California and played collegiately in Boston, the win was a dream come true. Gunn earned Directorate Honors as the top goalie and Ruggiero was once again the top defenseman, Wendell, the tournament’s leading scorer, was named MVP by the media.
The U.S. outshot Canada in every period, but could not get past St. Pierre, who was awarded Player of the Game for Canada. Canada’s first of three power plays provided its best opportunity in the first period, while Canada’s second power play provided one of the best for the U.S. when Wendell nearly converted one of her patented shorthanded rushes.
Harvard junior Julie Chu, the Player of the Game for the U.S., drew a penalty on Dartmouth junior Gillian Apps to give the U.S. a key third period power play opportunity. In the final seconds of the man advantage, quick passing gave Darwitz an open net to shoot at, but she was forced to rush her shot and clanked the puck off the post.
Each team had one power play in the overtime. The U.S. opportunity led to heavy pressure and a play whistled dead as Kim St. Pierre fell back into the net, but no goal was awarded after the review.
The U.S. had outshot Canada in several of its recent final game defeats, but Canada has always maintained an advantage in some combination of goaltending and finishing ability. This time, Gunn shut down three acclaimed Canadian goalscorers in Wickenheiser, Hefford and Ouellette, and that made all the difference.
Bronze: Sweden 5, Finland 2
Earlier on Saturday, Sweden topped Finland 5-2 in the Bronze Medal Game to win its first medal ever at the World Women’s Championships to go along with its bronze from the 2002 Olympics. UMD alum Maria Rooth ’03, the 2001 Frozen Four MVP, scored two goals in the Swedes’ win and earned Player of the Game honors.
Rooth scored just 24 seconds in to ignite the home crowd of 2,536, but the momentum was short-lived as Sweden took four of the next five penalties in the first period and surrendered a game-tying goal on the power play.
Finland went ahead 2-1 just over five minutes into the second period, but the Swedes pulled ahead eight minutes into the third period with back-to-back power play conversions. When Finland went on the power play, Sweden turned the tables as Erika Holst (UMD ’03) netted a shorthanded insurance goal for the 4-2 advantage with five minutes to go, and Rooth scored the empty-netter on a 6-on-4 to close out the victory.
Swedish goalie Kim Martin, likely a future U.S. collegian, stopped 31 of 33 shots for the victory. UMD sophomore Anna-Kaisa Piiroinen stopped 24 of 28 in defeat.