GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 22: USA's Maddie Rooney #35 and Sidney Morin #23 celebrate with their gold medals after a 3-2 overtime win over Team Canada during gold medal round action at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Young USA goalie proves her class
Maddie Rooney, just 20, was the star of the USA's shootout win for gold in Korea. But, for her teammates, a poised performance against Canada was no surprise.
When Team USA last won Olympic gold, goalie Maddie Rooney was still in nappies. Now, the 20-year-old Minnesota-Duluth student is a gold medallist herself after a nerveless display in a gold medal shootout victory.
She might be among the youngest players at the Games, but she’s made the goaltending spot her own, and earned the respect of her more celebrated colleagues. Team captain Meghan Duggan, spotting the goalie wrapping up a post-game interview, launched into an impromptu chant of ‘ROO-NEY! ROO-NEY!” before greeting the media herself.
“She’s a 20-year-old goaltender, she’s played unbelievable all tournament,” said Duggan. “Obviously it’s a full team effort, but she was fantastic.”
High praise, but that’s something Rooney is fast getting used to on her meteoric rise to hockey stardom. Less than a year ago, she was confounding Minnesota’s NCAA champion Golden Gophers with 61 saves against an offence that included the likes of Dani Cameranesi and Kelly Pannek. Now she – along with those two forwards – has achieved the holy grail, and ended the U.S. gold medal drought at the Olympics.
Rooney had to do it the hard way in the final, standing tall in a shoot-out to secure the prize after the teams tied 2-2 over 80 minutes of high-tempo, end-to-end hockey. And it all came down to one save, when Meghan Agosta attempted to salvage the game for Canada in sudden death.
“I just looked over at the bench and saw my teammates pointing at me to say ‘one more’ and that made it much easier,” Rooney said. “I anticipated she’d go 5-hole when she cut across and I made the stop. It was just a blur after that to see all my team-mates running at me. It’s an amazing feeling. I remember giving it a second swipe just to make sure it wasn’t rolling or anything.”
If Rooney recalls it all as a blur, her teammates remember poise and confidence. Duggan again: “I loved how she was smiling at the start of the shootout. Honest to God, in that moment I looked up and I was like ‘Maddie’s smiling, we’re good!’. She’s so calm, so confident, she’s fantastic.”
Gigi Marvin, who scored the first goal in the shootout to set America on its way: “Maddie’s unbelievable. I love all our goalies but she’s a gem. I’ve been rooming with her and she’s incredible. Talk about poise. Talk about belief. That’s the first word that comes to mind, poise. She’s just been a rock all year. She just owns it.”
The respect is mutual. The shootout was hard to watch, but the belief never wavered. “I had my head down, listening to the crowd,” Rooney said. “I remember looking up at the last second of each shot and realising ‘one more save, one more save’.
“But I was always confident in my team, I knew we had it. It’s important to stay calm as a goalie and focus on the next shot. When I went to the bench before it happened, the team was really supportive, really energetic. I knew we had this.”
So, does anything faze this youngster? Well, Wikipedia had a go. Within moments of the hooter, Rooney’s entry was updated. Her new job title? U.S. Secretary of Defense. Asked if she fancied it, there was the first flicker of confusion we’d seen from her all tournament. After laughing it off she admitted: “I don’t even know how to respond to that!”
Happily for Team USA, she knew exactly how to respond to everything else on the way to an era-defining gold medal.