Burnaby's Kimberly Newell gave Canadian hockey a gold medal to cheer about, backstopping the under-18 women's national hockey team to a world title in Finland on Saturday.
Newell, a freshman goalie at Princeton University, was named Canada's player of the game, stopping 39 of 40 shots, including 20 in the opening period, to pace Canada to a 2-1 overtime victory over the United States at the International Ice Hockey Federation world championships in Heinola, Finland.
The win gave Canada its third u-18 women's title and second in a row, tying it with the United States for most wins since the competition began in 2008. Canada also claimed a world title in 2010.
Trailing 1-0 through all the second period and much of the third, Catherine Dubois of Quebec City sent the game into extra time at 19: 47 of the final frame. Karly Heffernan, a St. Albert, Alta., native, then tallied the title-winning counter with less than a minute gone in the first overtime period.
"It was super exciting. It's like the movie Miracle on Ice. We had the feeling it's not possible, but I feel like with all the fears and doubts, we did a fantastic job in the dressing room just believing in ourselves," said Newell in a long distance call from Princeton University on Monday.
In OT, Heffernan buried a backhanded pass from behind the net by Hanna Bunton of Bellevue, Ont., past U.S. keeper Sidney Peters.
But a huge first-period stand by Newell gave Canada the opportunity it needed to find its skates after a slow start. Outshot 20-1 in the opening period, Newell allowed the only goal by the U.S., but made what sportcasters described as a "fantastic paddle save" to deny the Americans a second counter on what appeared to be a sure goal midway through the period.
"I thought my performance kept my team in there. I knew my team would figure it out, and you can see that we did," said Newell.
After the game, Newell was named the goalie for the all-world tournament team by the media. She also led all goalkeepers with a 96.00 save percentage.
Newell made 72 saves and gave up just one regular-strength goal in the competition, while posting her first international shutout in a 4-0 victory over host Finland in a preliminary pool matchup on Dec. 30.
"It was an exciting game, we knew it was going to be a battle," added Canadian head coach Jim Fetter in an online press release. "The first period we were on our heels, but our goaltender played well and gave us an opportunity to stay in the game."
The American team coach, Newell's head coach at Princeton, had another take on it when congratulating her after the gold-medal game..
"He said something along the line, 'I pulled something out on our team,'" Newell added.