Team Alberta head coach Carla MacLeod remembers well the thrill of winning gold as a player for Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
That feeling of pure euphoria came rushing back Friday.
Her team clinched a spot in the gold medal game with a surprising 2-1 overtime win against B.C. in the semifinals of female hockey at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
“I don’t think I’ve yelled that loud since 2010 when I was fortunate enough to win there but it’s actually more exciting than that win,” MacLeod said.
“Because of the energy and the effort that not only the players had put in but our staff and so for everything to come to fruition there, a lot of excitement on that bench shared by everyone.”
B.C. had been an absolute powerhouse heading into the semis, outscoring opponents 19-3 in three wins.
And they never made it easy for the host, who needed overtime in the semifinal to push past the undefeated B.C. squad, which they managed to do by the skin of their teeth.
Sarah Wozniewicz shoveled home the game-winning goal after a great pass from captain Danielle Serdachny to clinch the 2-1 victory as only 3:48 remained in the extra frame.
“I was just driving to the net and Dani (Serdachny) sauced it over and I just put it in the wide open (net),” said Wozniewicz, who plays at Edge School in Calgary.
“Oh, it was amazing. Feeling of excitement and I just can’t stop smiling. We’re going to the gold medal game.”
To get to overtime, Alberta leaned heavily on goalie Caroline Gosling, who rose to the challenge and then some.
She stopped all 11 B.C. shots in the first period and turned aside seven more in the second. The only goal she allowed on the night was on a breakaway by B.C’s Jenna Buglioni 4:26 into the third, one that just slipped over Gosling’s blocker.
Alberta had opened the scoring just a few minutes before the equalizer, on one of the only mistakes B.C. made in the game. A neutral turnover sprung Alberta’s Kassy Betinol in all alone and she went high glove on B.C. netminder Kiara Stecko to score the game’s first goal.
In between those moments, Gosling stole the show. After the 17-year-old goalie from Calgary stopped a shorthanded breakaway with eight minutes to go in the game, B.C. was awarded a penalty shot on the play.
“I had to do it for my girls and everyone in the room. Just about keeping the puck out of the net and one puck at a time,” said the five-foot-one netminder.
Less than a minute later, another shorthanded breakaway and another massive save from Gosling.
“I didn’t really have time to think, I was like ‘it can’t go in’,” said Gosling, who finished with 27 saves in the win.
MacLeod added that’s just what they’ve come to expect from their goalie in this tournament.
“She’s pretty small, but her grit and competitiveness is off the charts. I’m fortunate I work with her every day. She just is a big-time game player,” MacLeod said.
Both teams had chances to win in the final minutes of regulation over early in overtime, but Gosling willed her team to the win and just barely outduelled Kiara Stecko in the B.C. net. Stecko stopped 20 shots for B.C.
The win was also special for Alberta because of the path they’ve traveled in this tournament.
They were downed handily by B.C. 6-1 to open the tournament, then squeaked out a shootout victory over Nova Scotia in game 2. In their final pool play game, Alberta lost to Ontario, leaving them with a 1-2 record on the outside looking in. In the quarter-finals, they shutout Manitoba 3-0 and things slowly started to click.
“The whole week we’ve been getting stronger and stronger. We’ve been doing a lot of making sure we’re a team first. I saw that’s what we saw,” MacLeod said.
“Nobody stopped, every kid played and contributed. We knew on our bench it was a calm feeling. We played in tight games all week… every kid has their moment and they rise to the occasion and we knew we were going to get it.”
One more hurdle to capture gold and what a story it would make for the hosts to cap off the 2019 Canada Winter Games.