International Ice Hockey Federation

WW Top 25 Stories: #3

WW Top 25 Stories: #3

USA wins first Olympic gold

Published 02.04.2015 13:05 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
WW Top 25 Stories: #3
The U.S. players sing the national anthem after the medal ceremony in Nagano 1998. Photo: IIHF Archive
17 February 1998. In the first four Women’s World Championships, Canada and the United States were the dominant countries.

However, within this rivalry Canada was by far the powerhouse. It had won all gold games, by scores of 5-2, 8-0, 6-3, and 4-3 (in overtime).

So, coming into the first Olympics where women’s ice hockey was a medal sport, it was clear the Canadians were significant favourites.

The two teams played the final game of the round robin, on 14 February 1998, and again three days later for the Olympic gold. In that first game, a tight and tense contest turned into a record-breaking one.

Canada scored early in the game on a Lori Dupuis goal only to see U.S. captain Cammi Granato score in the final minute to make it 1-1. A scoreless middle period set up a thrilling finish. Canada scored three quick goals, stunning the Americans and asserting themselves at exactly the right moment. That 4-1 lead seemed invincible.

But no sooner had the Canadians built their seemingly impenetrable lead than the Americans staged the greatest scoring binge the Canadians had ever experienced. Baker, Granato, Schmidgall, Dunn, Brown, and Baker again all pelted goals past Lesley Reddon in the Canadian net.

By the time was over, the U.S. had scored a shocking 7-3 win thanks to a 12-minute outburst in the final period that produced six goals. The nine total goals remains an IIHF record for most goals by both teams in a period (with both teams scoring).

That set the stage for a gold-medal game which, if anything, gave the Americans an edge, knowing now that they could beat Canada. Gretchen Ulion and Shelley Looney scored for the Americans as they carefully built a 2-0 lead, but a goal by Danielle Goyette at 15:59 of the final period set the stage for a dramatic finish.

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Sandra Whyte, who had assisted on the first two goals, took the drama away when she scored into the empty net, giving the U.S. Olympic gold. It was a result that gave the Canadians motivation for the next four years, but it could never erase what is arguably to this day the greatest win for the U.S. women’s team – Olympic gold in the first medal event for the sport.

New heroes emerged in Nagano, bitter rivalries renewed, and the winner was women’s hockey which was played on a world stage never before so large and which delivered a blockbuster of commensurate size.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of women's hockey in the IIHF, writer Andrew Podnieks is counting down the top 25 stories in women's international hockey history. One story each day will appear until the Number 1 story is unveiled the morning of the gold-medal game of the 2015 Women's Worlds in Malmo, Sweden, on April 4.

Earlier Top 25 Stories:
#4: Switzerland comeback earns historic medal
#5: First women inducted into IIHF Hall of Fame
#6: Women’s hockey becomes an Olympic event
#7: Rider organizes an international tournament
#8: 15-year-old Wickenheiser makes her debut
#9: USA finally wins WW gold in 2005
#10: Lightning strikes for Manon of the crease
#11: 15-year-old Martin leads Sweden to bronze
#12: Angela James cut prior to Nagano
#13: Amanda Kessel misses 2014/15 with concussion
#14: IIHF removes body-checking from women’s hockey
#15: Jenni Hiirikoski becomes first Euro two-timer
#16: Former NHLer Yashin leads Russian women to bronze
#17: Cammi Granato cut before Turin
#18: Visitors win twice in North American finals
#19: IIHF makes Women’s Worlds official for 1990
#20: Rogge issues challenge to women’s hockey
#21: IIHF goes to all-women officials
#22: Shannon Miller recruits Euros for NCAA
#23: IIHF introduces junior event for women
#24: Zorn a goalie and skater both
#25: Russia-Switzerland a dandy display in 2011


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