Marie-Philip Poulin: Striking double gold for Canada
Canada’s Marie- Philip Poulin is the only player in women’s ice hockey to have scored in three consecutive Olympic finals, each time against the USA. In the first of those matches, at Vancouver 2010, she put her side 2-0 up in a game they went on to win, and in the second, at Sochi 2014, she struck a golden goal as Canada retained the title 3-2. Though she maintained her scoring run at PyeongChang 2018, putting the Canadians 2-1 ahead in the second period, Poulin could not prevent the Americans from completing a shootout victory.
An eye for goal
“I started out figure skating but I didn’t like it, and I got into hockey instead,” explained Marie-Philip Poulin, who has made a name for herself as a gifted attacker blessed with outstanding vision and an ability to play in any position.
The girl from Beauceville in Quebec originally cut her teeth playing for boys’ teams. In 2008, she became the leading scorer in the history of Canada’s U-18 women’s team, grabbing 31 goals in 17 matches and helping her country win silver at the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World U-18 Championships on home ice in Calgary.
By that stage, Poulin was already being widely tipped to become Canada’s greatest women’s ice hockey player of all time. She made her senior debut in 2009 and fulfilled her dream of appearing at the Olympic Winter Games the following year in Vancouver, at the age of only 18.
“Words can’t describe this,” she said on the eve of the tournament. “Here I am alongside the Olympic champions of 2002 and 2006. It’s just incredible.” The No. 29 wasted little time in proving she belonged there by scoring three goals and serving up two assists in Canada’s run to the final.
A golden double
Poulin saved her best for the showpiece match against the USA, played in front of a raucous 16,800 crowd. With 13.55 on the clock in the first period, she latched onto a Jennifer Botherill pass to put the hosts into the lead and rounded off the scoring just three minutes later, following a Meghan Agosta assist.
The Canadians held onto their 2-0 lead, thanks in no small part to some superlative stops from goaltender Shannon Szabados. An elated Poulin enthused: “This is one of the best matches of my life, but it didn’t all come down to just one player. It really was a team performance and Shannon did a great job in goal. I’ve been dreaming of this for many years and here I am with the medal hanging round my neck. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Same again in Ssochi
The spearhead and captain of NCAA club Boston Terriers, Poulin won another gold with Canada at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, where they again beat the Americans in the final, though their southern neighbours would have their revenge at the same stage a year later.
The two old rivals faced off for gold once more at Sochi 2014, with the USA taking a 2-0 lead in the second period. Brianne Jenner pulled one back for the Canadians as the clock ticked down, and with just 55 seconds remaining Poulin capped an unlikely comeback by slotting in from close range to tie the score up at 2-2.
Then, eight minutes into overtime, she pounced again, hitting a golden goal to give Canada their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal. “What an amazing feeling,” a jubilant Poulin later said. “This is unforgettable and it’s another dream come true for me here. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Poulin returned to the CWHL (Canadian Women’s Hockey League) in 2015, to play for Les Canadiennes de Montréal. The leading scorer and MVP in the 2015/16 season, she also excelled herself in the end-of-season All Star Game, in which she scored twice and was again named MVP.
An MVP and top goalscorer once more the following year, Poulin led Les Canadiennes to victory over Calgary Inferno in the Clarkson Cup final. In the meantime, she collected three consecutive wWorld cChampionship silvers with Canada, in Malmö (SWE) in 2015, Kamloops (CAN) in 2016, and Plymouth (USA) in 2017, with the USA beating them on each occasion.
Golden run ends
In making their Olympic title defence at PyeongChang 2018, Canada went unbeaten in normal time, with Poulin again a goal scorer as well as providing numerous assists. After topping their group, thanks in part to a 2-1 defeat of the Americans, the Canadians went straight through to the semi-finals, where they saw off Team Olympic Athletes from Russia 5-0.
Waiting for them in the final once more were the USA, the fifth time the two neighbours had met in the six Olympic gold medal matches since Nagano 1998. Reigning Olympic champions since 2002, the Canadians had gone 24 matches unbeaten and looked set to continue that remarkable sequence when Poulin put them 2-1 ahead in the second period. In doing so, she became the first player to score in three consecutive Olympic finals.
The USA’s Monique Lamoureux tied the game at 2-2 seven minutes from time, however, and after overtime had ended without any addition to the score, Lamoureux’s twin sister Jocelyne beat Szabados in a heart-stopping shootout to give the Americans a 3-2 win and end Canada’s long reign.
“It’s the toughest defeat of my career,” said Poulin after collecting her third Olympic medal. “I don’t think an Olympic final should come to an end with a shootout, but that’s just part of it I guess.
“Obviously in women’s hockey the colour of the medal makes all the difference, but we’ve worked hard all year and it was a very tight match. I think it’s good for women’s hockey, but it goes without saying that it’s tough to take.
“Our team left its heart out on the ice today,” she continued. “They’re my second family and I am so proud of my team-mates. This is a very special unit. We have a great group of experienced players and the youngsters have shown how mature they are throughout the whole year and here at the Olympics.
“There’s no better feeling than having the opportunity to represent your country at the highest level, and this was no exception. We tried to do the people of Canada proud and I really hope we managed to do that.”