LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK – There wasn’t any doubt when the final buzzer sounded through the hallowed halls of Herb Brooks Arena.
For the first time since 2013, Canada were FISU World University Games gold medalists in women’s hockey, topping the podium at Lake Placid 2023.
On the back of 12 saves from UNB’s Kendra Woodland and a throttled second-period offensive outburst, Canada downed Japan 5-0 in the gold medal game, claiming the nation’s first hockey gold in nearly a decade.
“Speechless, amazing, the best feeling in the entire world, this is something I’ve dreamt of this since I started playing hockey,” Queen’s forward Scout Watkins-Southward told 49 Sports. “This game, specifically the gold medal game of the second largest international competition in the world, was definitely one of the greatest experiences and opportunities I’ve ever had.”
Canada struggled through the opening frame, as they often did through the Lake Placid tournament, failing to score, while not generating many high-percentage scoring chances despite heavily outshooting the opposition.
76 seconds into the second period, Canada opened the scoring as Waterloo’s Leah Herrfort carried the puck with speed through the neutral zone before crashing the goal and allowing Montreal’s Audrey-Anne Veillette to poke the puck in.
The goal, the first of five, proved to be golden.
“After the first, we had to adapt a bit, and we had to play more supportive to each other,” team captain Emmy Fecteau said. “And after the second period, we were working together and working harder than them, and it paid off.”
Velleitte’s goal stood as the winner; however, Canada continued to drive forward, with Nipissing’s Maria Dominico adding Canada’s first insurance goal, holding onto the puck on a three-on-one break before circling the offensive zone and firing a shot over the shoulder of Mashuhara.
Soon after, StFX’s Maggy Burbidge found the back of the net on a second-chance effort, while Fecteau’s shot from the high slot made it 4-0. Then, McGill’s Elizabeth Mura made it 5-0 in the third period with a sharp-angle shot.
“This is the exact outcome that we wanted, and we worked really hard to be here, so finally having the gold medal around our neck is definitely a surreal feeling,” Dominico said.
“We had to take that step back after the first period and kind of re-adjust, they came out hard but we remembered that we had to play our game and that we were all chosen to be here for a reason.”
Canada led in all but one period of these FISU Games, only facing adversity on the scoreboard against Slovakia in the semifinals, trailing by a goal after the first period. Yet that moment allowed the Canadian team to adjust in the final against Japan.
“We almost led this thing rail to rail,” head coach Greg Bowles said. “To go behind and have a little bit of adversity, it let us build, and that whole team is absolutely packed full of character.”
Bowles and the coaching staff had often spoken about the four stages that they had with the group and the journey to an eventual gold meda — which, of course, was phase four.
“This is phase four, phase four was just letting it happen, and this game was just in their hands,” he said. “We wanted to be on autopilot by this point, and after last night’s win, it was up to them, and I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”
As FISU acting president Leonz Eder lay the gold medals around the Canadian student-athlete’s necks, Bryan Adams’ vocals blared over the loudspeakers of Herb Brooks Arena, and Canadian fans packed the few rows above the ice.
With Canadian gold, Lake Placid’s “Miracle” ice looked like a consulate. For a brief moment in time, the famed American rink was Canadian gold.
Canada’s first women’s hockey gold medal since 2013 puts Team Canada at 12 medals at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games, just three short of the nation’s record of 15 set at the Belluno 1985 Games.
Canadian hockey action isn’t done at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, however, as the men take on Team USA for men’s hockey gold on Sunday night ahead of the closing ceremony and FISU flag handoff to Torino 2025.