Mikkelson good as gold
St. Albert Olympian plays with broken right hand to win second gold medal of her career in epic final against United States
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Friday, Feb 21, 2014 12:30 pm
A broken right hand didn’t stop St. Albert’s golden girl from playing a starring role in Canada’s epic Olympic hockey victory against the United States.
Meaghan Mikkelson – a stalwart defenceman who played her minor hockey in St. Albert – returned to Team Canada’s lineup after missing the semifinal against Switzerland. Despite a taped up and frozen hand, she logged 21:44 minutes of ice time and assisted on Canada’s first goal of the game in Thursday’s gold-medal showdown in front of an announced crowd of 10,639 at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia.
The dramatic 3-2 overtime victory is being hailed as the greatest game of women’s hockey ever played and Mikkelson was thrilled by the experience.
“This was definitely my #Whatittakes moment of the Games!” said Mikkelson, who tweeted a picture of her broken hand while displaying the Olympic gold medal on her Twitter handle at @Mikkelson12.
It’s the second Olympic gold medal for the 29-year-old Mikkelson, one of 12 returning players from the 2-0 win over the Americans in 2010 at Vancouver. It’s also Canada’s fourth-straight gold medal in women’s hockey, dating back to 2002 in Salt Lake City.
But the dramatic finish in Russia against Canada’s bitter rivals not only lived up to the hype but was truly historic, as Marie-Philip Poulin scored the tying marker with 55 seconds left in regulation time and sniped the golden goal on the power play at 8:10 in sudden death.
Poulin is the Americans’ worst nightmare; she scored twice in Vancouver with a gold medal hanging in the balance.
In the rematch the Americans were 3:26 away from winning gold while clinging to a 2-0 lead, when Mikkelson passed the puck off the boards to Brianne Jenner. She skated into the slot and her shot deflected off a defender and past goalie Jessie Vetter.
The Canadians poured on the pressure for the equalizer, and with goalie Shannon Szabados pulled for the extra attacker, Kelli Stack’s shot from the American zone slowly slid to the base of the post and stayed out.
With the Canadian net still empty, Poulin wasted no time evening the score after Rebecca Johnston dug the puck out along the boards behind the net and sent it out front for the Boston University forward from Beauceville, Que. to salt away against a startled Vetter.
PPs in OT
In the four-on-four overtime session, British referee Joy Tottman whistled Canadian defenceman Catherine Ward for cross-checking during a scrum around Szabados. But early on the power play, Jocelyne Lamoureux of the Americans was assessed a slashing minor after taking a couple of extra whacks at the puck in Szabados’ pads.
With the two teams playing three-on-three, a snafu by Hilary Knight of the Americans in the Canadian end resulted in a breakaway for Hayley Wickenheiser. Knight tracked down the legendary Wickenheiser near the American blueline and hauled her down and Tottman signaled a penalty. The Canadians argued for a penalty shot while Knight expressed disbelief over the call.
It took the Canadians only 39 seconds to capitalize on the four-on-three power play, as Laura Fortino located an open Poulin to tee up the golden goal.
Szabados kept Canada in the hunt throughout the wild affair with several highlight-reel saves and was sharp in overtime while recording 29 saves.
American captain Meghan Duggan scored in the second with a wrister over Szabados’ glove shoulder at 11:57 of the second and Alex Carpenter deflected a cross-ice pass from Knight past Szabados's left pad at 2:01 of the third.
Vetter stopped 28 shots in the loss.
In the final preliminary round game for both teams Canada edged the Americans 3-2.
Mikkelson was assessed a body-checking minor in the first period for her second penalty at the Olympics. Her assist in the final was also her only point in four games.
The first female to play rep hockey in St. Albert in 1997 with the atom AA provincial champion TD Lightning averaged close to 20 minutes per game in a shutdown duo before the hand injury.
Mikkelson was one of the inaugural 24 inductees into the City of St. Albert’s Skating Wall of Fame in 2011.
In her last appearance in St. Albert with the national team, the former bantam AAA Sabre thrilled the hometown crowd of just over 2,100 at Northstar Hyundai Arena by going upstairs on midget AAA Raiders’ goalie Pat Dea with a shot that rattled the water bottle on top of the net in the shootout portion of the contest.
Canada won the shootout 2-1 after rallying from a two-goal deficit with 10 minutes remaining in regulation time to knot it at three apiece.
Games between Canada and Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League teams counted in the standings and the national team finished 3-11-4.