As the two goliaths of women's hockey wrapped up a hard fought 60 minutes and walked down the tunnel to grab a breather before overtime of the gold medal game on Thursday, there was a couple of sentiments shared widely as the extra period loomed.
The first one, of course, was an instant appreciation for the legendary game we just witnessed. Another classic between the fierce rivals who deliver the goods every damn time they meet in the Olympic final.
The second, was some variation of "Oh please, sweet Jesus, whatever happens, whoever wins, please, PLEASE don't let this end in a god damn shootout. ANYTHING but a shootout."
Welp, even after trading chance after chance during 20 minutes of four-on-four, sudden-death OT bliss, neither were able to find the golden goal. As the buzzer sounded and it was clear this absolute classic was going to be settled with a breakaway skills competition, one could here a collected "FUCK" ringing throughout North America.
Let me be straight, Team USA 100 percent deserved to win this game and this tournament. They dominated in possession, shot attempts, shots on goal, faceoffs, and pretty much every other indicator of success in the final. They were the better team in both games in PyeongChang and earned every ounce of gold around their necks. But holy hell, nobody, be it the players themselves, family, friends or fans, deserved to be subjected to the psychological torture of seeing that absolute classic of a game being decided by a bunch of fucking breakaways.
It's a travesty that this game—which lived up to the near-impossible hype, boasted record ratings, had social media blowing up, and fans and media members on both sides of the border totally engaged—had to be decided like that, especially for these players. Their Stanley Cup is fought for just once every four years, and these warriors on both sides deserved to see the game end in, well, any other way than how it did.
It was a shitty, shitty way for it to go down, but the beautiful thing about these legendary squads is they may be the only two teams on Earth who can make even a shootout enjoyable.
Just as the game went end to-end, back and forth for 80 minutes, the shootout itself saw spectacular finishes and saves from both sides before coming down to extra shots. After Melodie Daoust pulled off the one-handed "Forsberg" to give Canada the lead, Amanda Kessel responded with the pressure on as she put home one of the most clutch shootout goals in history for the US.
After the next two shooters were thwarted, the stage was set for Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, who already scored earlier in the game, to deliver an iconic goal for USA hockey. She did just that, drifting toward the Canadian goal and throwing down one of the filthiest shoulder fakes you'll ever see and turning Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados (who put forth one of the best goaltending performances ever in a gold medal final) inside out before sliding the eventual winner home.
The Americans' effort ended Canada's 24-game Olympic winning streak and snapped a reign of four straight gold medals for the Red and White.
Hopefully international hockey can someday, somehow, someway, figure this shit out. Even the NHL, which isn't exactly the pinnacle of innovation, realizes how stupid it is to end any meaningful (playoff) game with a shootout. Bettman LOVES the shootout, and even he knows that when the contests really matter, teams deserve to play it out until someone scores.
It's never been more clear that the IIHF needs to remove their collective heads from their asses and change this ancient format ASAP. We all know the chances of that happening, though.