It’s finally gold. The USA women’s long wait to be crowned Olympic champions is over at last.
But only after another epic duel with perennial rivals Canada that went all the way to a sudden-death shootout.
After the sides were locked 2-2 in regular time, neither could find a way through in overtime.
In the ensuing shootout, 20-year old Maddie Rooney saved the decisive shot from Meghan Agosta to give the US their first Olympic title since Nagano ’98.
Story of the match
The first period was every bit as tense and tight as expected.
Canada had the clearest opportunity as goaltender Rooney had to scramble a Blayre Turnbull wraparound to safety.
The Americans meanwhile could not profit from a couple of power plays.
But on their third power play, the USA struck.
A shot from Hillary Knight took a crucial nick off a Canadian player to fly into the net with 19:34 on the clock.
But their lead would not hold for long.
Right at the start of the second period, Haley Irwin touched the puck into the net after some fine set-up play from Turnbull.
Soon after, the USA had another power play, but once again Canada held firm.
Then the defending champions moved ahead for the first time.
A brilliant combination between Agosta and Marie-Philip Poulin opened up the US defense.
And Canadian captain Poulin ripped a first-time shot past Rooney to make it 2-1 Canada.
Monique Lamoureux-Morando had an excellent chance to tie things up once more, but sent her shot the wrong side of the post.
Poulin was right at the heart of the action, sending Brianna Decker to the ice with a huge hit at the start of the third.
The US wanted a penalty called, but the contact was ruled a fair hit.
By now, the Americans were throwing everything at their opponents, desperate to keep their gold medal chances alive.
With just under seven minutes remaining, they had their lifeline.
Lamoureux-Morando left open right in front of the net and making no mistake.
The game was heading for overtime.
Playing 4-on-4 in overtime, it was the Americans who came out strongest.
Robb Stauber’s side peppered the Canadian goal with shots.
But they found Shannon Szabados an impenetrable barrier.
With the clock running down, Megan Keller was sent to the penalty box for an illegal hit.
Still, Canada could not find a winner despite their numerical advantage.
It was an exhausting, nerve-wracking battle.
But US goaltender Maddie Rooney did not seem overly anxious.
The 20-year-old was laughing and smiling as the shootout began.
Still the drama continued; both sides scoring twice in their first five attempts.
Now it came down to a sudden death.
Some sensational stickwork from Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson deceived Szabados and the US were in front 3-2.
Four-time Olympian Agosta took to the ice for Canada.
But the veteran was denied by the rookie, Rooney saving her shot to end the USA’s long search for gold.
It was a sensational end to an encounter worthy of these two great adversaries.
For Canada it was their first defeat in Olympic ice hockey in 24 games.
For the USA, an emotional moment after finally capturing a gold which had eluded them in their last four appearances.
Head coach Robb Stauber said afterwards:
“It is everything for our country. I can’t tell you how happy I am for our players. We love them, it is unreal. I am just so thankful for the outcome.
It was a thrilling final…I am just so happy for our players.”