Story #35

Swedish "Mirakel" as USA bumped from Olympic gold-medal game

February 17, 2006 — Turin, Italy

 

There was no reason to suspect that anything would be different in 2006. Since 1990, when women’s hockey became an official IIHF event, every finals had been a Canada-USA affair. This was the rivalry that kept women’s hockey alive and exciting, but in some ways it was also one that was taking interest away from the sport.

On the one hand, the two countries always demonstrated the very pinnacle of skill; on the other, some fans were getting bored by the sameness and predictability of each gold-medal game. Coming into the 2006 Olympics, another Canada-USA gold-medal game seemed inevitable; no country, notably Sweden or Finland, had shown an ability to beat either nation prior to the Turin Games. And, indeed, the preliminary round went as usual, Canada and the USA winning all their games.

There was, however, a noticeable difference. Canada beat its opponents badly (16-0, 12-0, 8-1) while the Americans won with a bit more difficulty. Finland, for instance, led USA 2-1 and 3-2 after the first and second periods, respectively, before bowing, 7-3. Still, the semi-finals pitted Canada versus Finland and USA versus Sweden, and everything looked status quo. Canada crushed Finland 6-0, but the Americans did nothing of the sort to the Damkronor.

The game started out on form as Kristin King scored on the power play to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead after the first period, and Kelly Stephens added another goal with the man advantage early in the second to make it 2-0. But Sweden’s Maria Rooth rose to the occasion. She scored once to make it a 2-1 game, and then midway through the period she scored a short-handed goal to tie the score. A stunned USA team headed to the dressing room in a 2-2 tie after 40 minutes, and it was the Swedes who came out in the third with a confidence no one could have predicted. The third, and a 10-minute overtime period that followed, could not produce another goal, so the teams went to a shootout.

The nervous Americans were stoned on all of their chances by goalie Kim Martin, and Rooth and Pernilla Winberg both scored to give Sweden an unbelievable victory. Sports Illustrated, where not even men’s professional hockey gets much space, devoted two pages to this historic win and the headline was the Swedish word “Mirakel”.

The Swedes were going to the gold-medal game, and the Americans had to play for bronze less than 24 hours later. Canada beat Sweden, 4-1 to win gold again, and the Americans won bronze with a 4-0 win over the Finns. But, the story of the tournament was Maria Rooth, Kim Martin, and their Swedish teammates who made women’s hockey history by taking their country to a silver medal.

About the Top 100 Stories

As part of the IIHF's 100th anniversary celebrations, www.IIHF.com is featuring the 100 top international hockey stories from the past century (1908-2008). Starting now and continuing through the 2008 IIHF World Championships in Canada, we will bring you approximately three stories a week counting down from Number 100 to Number 11.

 

The Final Top 10 Countdown will be one of the highlights of the IIHF's Centennial Gala Evening in Quebec City on May 17, the day prior to the Gold Medal Game of the 2008 World Championship.

 

These are the criteria for inclusion on this list: First, the story has to have had a considerable influence on international hockey. Second, it has to have had either a major immediate impact or a long-lasting significance on the game. Third, although it doesn't necessarily have to be about top players, the story does have to pertain to the highest level of play, notably Olympics, World Championships, and the like. The story can be about a single moment — a goal, a great save, a referee's call — or about an historic event of longer duration — a game, series, tournament, or rule change.

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