Brianne Jenner’s goal changed everything. With three and a half minutes left in the women’s hockey gold medal game in Sochi, Russia it drew Canada to within a goal. More importantly, it shifted the momentum which had been almost entirely in the defensive American’s favour. Canada’s dream of winning a fourth straight goal was now a possibility again.
By the time Marie-Phillip Poulin tied the game in 54.6 second remaining the game had played directly into Canada’s hands.
“Once we scored the tying goal we knew that the game was ours,” Canadian defenceman Meaghan Mikkelson tells Last Word On Sports. “Everything was going our way. It was amazing, I was just so proud that we found two goals like that.”
Canada would go on to win the game 3-2 in overtime, with late game hero Poulin cementing her place in Canadian memory as she also scored the winner. But Mikkelson almost didn’t play in the defining game of the Olympic Games, struggling with injury.
Mikkelson had broken her hand earlier in the tournament, and had not played the Semi-Final game against the Swiss. If she was to play in the final game, it would be under tremendous pain and risk, despite the freezing.
But the 29 year old from Regina, Saskatchewan had not spent four years of her life preparing for this game just to let a hand injury get in her way. Medical clearance was the hard part, finding the inspiration to play was not.
“I wanted to play in that game, there was no way I wasn’t playing,” said Mikkelson. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to play one shift, or as much as I did. Finding inspiration wasn’t hard to do, I just had to look around the dressing room.”
That inspiration goes both ways, as it’s hard to imagine her teammates seeing her fight through the pain and not gaining a little more energy. Even appearing in the game at all was a contribution to the resilience Canada showed late.
But the game was about more than just an individual, more than just a country. It was about the sport itself, and securing it’s often questioned spot in the Olympic Games. The tournament itself was about growing the women’s game. Mission accomplished so far: women’s hockey will be included in the 2018 games in South Korea.
“Growing the women’s game kickstarted after the Vancouver games,” explains Mikkelson to Last Word On Sports. “This gold medal game gave it another push forward.”
As for how the game’s impact is being felt? Mikkelson says that the difference has been visible since returning home. Canadians care about women’s hockey more than ever before.
“The viewership in Canada was over a third of our country,” said Mikkelson. “There hasn’t been one person that I’ve come across since I got home that hasn’t watched that game or told me how proud they were.”
In the month after the Olympics Mikkelson received surgery on her broken hand. But it is a small price to pay for her career, her teammates, her country and ultimately her sport.
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