Hockey gods were smiling on Canadian women at the Sochi Olympics
2 inches of iron set up Marie-Philip Poulin's heroics in gold-medal game
If you spend enough time around hockey players, you'll probably hear them refer to hockey gods at some point in the conversation when they talk about an unexplainable and seemingly miraculous situation that unfolded on the ice.
They believe it.
On Feb. 20, 2014, in Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia, the Canadian women's hockey team experienced it.
"Everyone talks about these hockey gods and they actually came to play in probably the most important game of my life," Canada's Jennifer Wakefield said.
Canada had fallen behind the Americans 2-0 early in the third period after a power play goal from Alex Carpenter. It wasn't looking promising for Canada to win a fourth consecutive Olympic gold in women's hockey.
But with three and a half minutes to go in the game, Canada's Brianne Jenner started the comeback, a pinballing shot that found its way through a maze of players before finding the net and making it a one-goal game.
That set the stage for a heart-stopping final 90 seconds.
With 1:34 remaining and trailing 2-1, the Canadians pulled goalie Shannon Szabados from the net and prepared for an offensive zone draw.
"I think we won the draw and Catherine Ward went into grab the puck and at the same time the linesman was making her exit outside of the zone," Canada's Hayley Irwin recalled. "There was a little bit of a collision and the puck didn't go where we expected it to."
WATCH | 'Thank you, goal post':
It went directly to American Kelli Stack, who fired the puck toward the gaping Canadian net from her own blue line.
Szabados, sitting in the Canadian bench, so badly wanted to bolt onto the ice and stop the puck as it agonizingly worked its way toward the net.
"It was like slow motion. It took forever to get down the ice," she said.
Marie-Philip Poulin was on the ice, helplessly watching the puck head toward their goal from the other end.
"If it goes right, it goes into the net. If it goes left it hits post. Right. Left. Right. Left," Poulin said. "And then all of the sudden it hits the post. Bam. Just like that it hits the post and we get all the momentum."
If it goes right, it goes into the net. If it goes left it hits post. Right. Left. Right. Left.- Team Canada's Marie-Philip Poulin
It couldn't have hit the post more squarely, clanging off the iron and butterflying in the air before being scooped up by the Canadians as the time keeped ticking away.
They sped away from their own end and raced toward the Americans' net to mount their attack.
"I remember I turned to one of my teammates on the bench and I said, 'that's a sign. We're going to win this thing,'" Mikkelson said.
The United States were so badly looking to break through in the Olympic gold medal game, having lost two of the past three to the Canadians.
But those hockey gods once again appeared for Canada.
With less than a minute remaining the Canadians were buzzing around the USA net, buoyed by their remarkable luck just 30 seconds earlier.
Poulin found herself all alone out front the American goal and rifled the puck past Jessie Vetter to tie the game.
The Canadian players erupted on the ice and in the bench in celebration, a stunning twist to a game that seemed like a foregone conclusion just minutes earlier.
"We had scored two goals in the last few minutes of this hockey game, we didn't do that to lose in overtime," Irwin said. "We were going out there and we were going to win the hockey game."
The magical comeback was completed on a power play in overtime, Poulin snapping a shot past Vetter to give Canada the improbable victory. It was the first time ever the women's Olympic gold-medal game was decided in extra time.
"If feels surreal and a bit of a dream but just that whole unfolding of events and the way that it happened, that's what makes that game and that win so special," Mikkeslon said.
A golden moment that would have never materialized if it wasn't for that lucky post and those hockey gods.
"Thank you. Just thank you," Irwin said.
"I don't know where you came from. I don't know why you got in the way. We never talked about it before but thank you for being there. Thank you for being our saviour in that moment. And for coming up big."