GANGNEUNG, South Korea — As Meghan Duggan made her way through the interview area here at the Gangneung Hockey Centre on Thursday afternoon, she started chanting, “ROO-NEY! ROO-NEY! ROO-NEY!’’
With a gold medal dangling from her neck, Duggan, the captain of the US women’s hockey team from Danvers, then hardily patted the shoulder pads of her 20-year-old goaltender, Maddie Rooney.
Rooney was making her way to the exit to find her parents, rejoin her teammates, and continue basking in the feelings that come along with a 3-2 shootout victory over Canada for Olympic gold, the first time the Americans have felt the weight of gold around their necks since defeating the Canadians in the 1998 Games, a game Rooney had said she was probably watching from a crib.
Twenty years after that victory in Nagano, Rooney, a redshirt junior at University of Minnesota-Duluth making her Olympic debut, turned in a performance her teammates would later repeatedly refer to as unbelievable and poised. The goaltender stopped 29 of the Canadians’ 31 shots in regulation and overtime before turning back four of six in the shootout.
“Kudos to her, for a 20-year-old backstopping in an Olympic gold medal game in a shootout is pretty unbelievable, so I’m so proud of her,’’ said forward Monique Lamoureux-Morando, who scored a third period breakaway goal to tie the game at 2-2 and eventually force overtime. “It’s hard to put into words how big of a moment [that was], and she rose to the challenge.’’
Before the shootout, coach Robb Stauber did not say a word to his goalie. He knew it was unnecessary. He knows of Rooney’s calm demeanor, how she does not get rattled, and how she bounces back no matter the circumstances.
“If I would’ve said something to her, I would’ve gotten in her way, so there was no way I was going to touch that,’’ Stauber said. “I’ve watched her for a long, long time. I say very, very little to her because she has ice in her veins.’’
Rooney’s shootout performance started with a stop and a smile. After stuffing Natalie Spooner on the Canadians’ first attempt, a grin came across Rooney’s face.
“I loved it,’’ Duggan said. “Honest to God, honest to God in that moment, I looked up and I was like, ‘Maddie’s smiling. We’re good. We’re good!’’’
She would give up two and stop two more in the five-shot round. But her biggest stop was her last one, the first in the sudden-death round.
Forward Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Monique’s twin sister, put away the Americans’ sixth attempt using a nifty move her coach and sister called Oops I Did It Again. Rooney saw only the tail end of the goal — “I just had my head down listening to the crowd and then I looked up and saw it going in,’’ she said — as with the rest of her teammates’ shootout attempts. Then, Rooney looked over to the bench, her teammates pointing and signaling at her, “One more.’’ “And that made it a whole lot easier,’’ Rooney said.
Canada forward Meghan Agosta, an assistant captain, zigged and zagged methodically up the ice. When Agosta cut across the net, Rooney anticipated she would go to the five hole. And she anticipated correctly, coming up with the save. Her teammates knew the outcome before Agosta even took the puck.
“After Jocelyne scored, I knew Maddie was going to save the next one,’’ Lamoureux-Morando said. “That’s all I could think of. I didn’t even know who was going for them, didn’t care, just knew that she was going to do it, and she got it done.’’
“I pointed right at her once Agosta was going for her next shot and said, ‘You got this,’ and she knew she had it,’’ forward Brianna Decker said.
“We all knew she had it,’’ forward Gigi Marvin said. “She’s just been a rock all year. She just owns it.’’
“When we went into the shootout, I had no doubt that she could do it,’’ Sidney Morin, a former teammate at Minnesota-Duluth, said.
Then, it all became a blur for Rooney. She tossed her stick aside, and her teammates came barrelling at her from the bench, ready to dogpile her in celebration and in relief.
“Amazing feeling,’’ Rooney said.
The smile she had on her face in the shootout rarely left her face after the result was final, beaming as she was second-to-last in the line of her teammates when they received their gold medals on the ice, placed around their necks by Angela Ruggiero, a member of the 1998 US team that won gold.
“[Lamoureux-Morando and Lamoureux-Davidson] came up huge and it all came down to Maddie Rooney,’’ said Hilary Knight, who scored the Americans’ first goal in regulation. “And she had a gold-medal-winning performance.’’