"I just came off the bench, and with a four-on-three power play, I had a lot of space," Wheeler said. "We've been doing well on our net drives, so I just went wide and cut in and had a bad-angle shot. The rebound popped out, and I buried it. I think because it's a gold-medal game you have to do whatever you have to do to get a goal. I knew that even if I didn't score, going to the net would create a good scoring opportunity. It did."
Canada got the man advantage thanks to a great rush by Danielle Serdachny, who also scored the opening goal. She barrelled down the right side and along the boards behind the goal, forcing Abbey Murphy to hold her.
"I was just trying to go to the net, but I didn't see an option," Serdachny described. "I took it around and drew a penalty, which turned out well for us."
"They got the call and took advantage," U.S. captain Dominique Petrie said, fighting back tears. "There's nothing we can do about it now. It's out of our control. We have to come back stronger next year."
That the goal was scored with the extra skater is not surprising. The hard-fought game featured many power plays both ways, including several five-on-three chances, and all goals but one were scored with an extra player.
"It's difficult to be killing penalties all the time, but both teams had to do it," Serdachny noted. "It was really about bouncing back after a goal or penalties that made the difference."
"That's the game of hockey," Petrie added. "You have to score when you get the chances. We got a few, but it wasn't enough. I commend them, but hopefully next time we get the bounces more than they will. We did a great job killing off penalties and getting the momentum back. When there are a lot of penalties, how you do on the power play and penalty kill will dictate whether you win or lose. They came out on top tonight."
Canada was led by goalie Raygan Kirk. She took over for Mahika Sarrazin after the first game and played the rest of the way, earning MVP honours along the way. "All three of us [goalies] came in about even, so when I got the nod I had to try to play my best," she said. "Clearly it worked. It feels great! I think we were all nervous before the game, but it was good-nervous. We used our energy as a team."
"We had a great tournament," said American Makenna Webster. "We played every game as hard as we could, but it wasn't our game today. We'll learn from this. It's brought us closer as a team. Hopefully next year will be our year."
Canada drew first blood on the game’s first power play. Defenceman Alexie Guay’s point shot was tipped in front by Julia Gosling. Although Skylar Vetter made the save, the puck came right to Serdachny who snapped it in at 7:44.
"After the shot, it just popped out right to me, back door, and I had an open net," Serdachny said. "I was there to put it in."
The Americans got two power plays in the later stages and moved the puck around with efficiency. Canada kept them to the outside, though, and Kirk was rock solid in goal when she needed to be and gave up precious few rebounds. That power play looked impressive, and if Canada were going to win it couldn’t take too many more penalties.
"I tried to bear down in those situations when the girls might be tired and need a whistle," Kirk noted. "It's good to get that change in and focus on the next whistle."
The second period was a series of golden opportunities for both teams with the extra man. Canada started the period five-on-four and did everything but score. The Americans then had a five-on-three for 59 seconds, but Canada’s penalty killing was superb.
Almost as if scripted, the Canadians soon had a five-on-three, and the American penalty kill was letter perfect. But Canada took two penalties later, and the last one cost them. Webster’s quick shot form the faceoff circle snuck under Kirk at 17:10, and the game was tied.
Abbey Murphy got the Americans their first lead at 6:07 of the third when she knocked in a rebound from in close, but much of the period was again a series of power plays. The U.S. had another five-on-three for 56 seconds, all for naught, and later Canada was two men up for 26 seconds that yielded nothing.
It was a single man advantage that helped Canada tied the game at 11:11. Serdachny made a great pass to Anne Cherkowski in front, and she converted it to perfection, making it a 2-2 game. That set the stage for the dramatic and quick overtime.
"Everyone had tons of belief in each other," Petrie said. "We all talk about being such a close-knit family. I believe in every one of my teammates, and I knew we could go out and do it. The chips just didn't fall in our favour."
"It's always like that when we play them," Kirk said. "They're a great opponent, so every game is close and you have to be able to push back when they come at you. We gave it our all and came out on top. Life is good!"