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Miles Morrisseau
Special to Indian Country Today

It was deja vu all over again at the Olympic gold medal finals in women's hockey in Beijing. The final score was 3-2 just as it was four years ago in PyeongChang, South Korea, but this time Team Canada came out on top.

And when it mattered most, three Indigenous women players were on the ice — Abby Roque, Ojibway from Wahnapitae First Nation who grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, for the Americans; and Jocelyne Larocque and Jamie Lee Rattray, both of the Métis Nation, for the Canadians.

Both teams geared up for the decades-long rivalry in a game late Wednesday, Feb. 16 (early Thursday in Beijing).

Team Canada opened the scoring at just under seven minutes of the first period, when Natalie Spooner picked up a rebound in front of the U.S. net and scored. But the coaches for Team USA felt the play might have been offside and called for a video review. A few minutes after reviewing the play, officials ruled the play was offside, and the goal was taken off the board.

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Just over a minute later, Canadian Sarah Nurse scored with a deflection off the point shot from Claire Thompson. Canada took a two-goal lead when captain Marie-Philip Poulin stole the puck and flipped a soft shot that somehow found its way past American goaltender Alex Cavallini.

Canada took a three-goal lead when Poulin scored her second of the night midway through the second period.

The United States' Abby Roque, (11) Ojibway from Wahnapitae First Nation who grew up in Michigan, and Canada's Micah Zandee-Hart (28) go for the puck during the women's gold medal hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Roque was one of three Indigenous women playing in the gold medal game, joining Canadians Jamie Lee Rattray and Jocelyne Larocque, both of the Métis Nation. The game was played Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Beijing (Feb. 16 in the U.S.). Canada won 3-2 to reclaim the gold medal. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Larocque took the first Canadian penalty of the game, though an earlier penalty for delay of game had been called against the Americans for shooting the puck over the glass. Up until then, the referees pretty much kept their whistles in their pockets, despite bodies slamming in front and back of both nets and up against the boards.

As the teams scrambled for control of the puck at the Canadian blue line, Larocque knocked the American captain Kendall Coyne Schofield to the ice. The referees called it “holding” and Larocque went to the penalty box.

A sign of her quick rise on Team USA, first-time Olympian Roque started on the power play. The Canadians would successfully kill off the penalty.

American Hilary Knight scored short-handed, picking up her own rebound and putting the puck past Canadian goaltender Ann-Renée Desmiens, who had been playing lights out against an American team that was once again dominating in possession and shots but not in goals.

Canada's Jocelyne Larocque, left, Métis Nation, bumps shoulders with Natalie Spooner before taking the ice for the women's gold medal hockey game against the U.S. at the 2022 Winter Olympics, on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Beijing (Wednesday, Feb. 16 in the United States). Larocque was one of three Indigenous women playing in the gold medal game, joining fellow Canadian Jamie Lee Rattray, also of the Métis Nation, and American Abby Roque, Ojibway from Wahnapitae First Nation who grew up in Michigan. Canada won the game 3-2 to reclaim the gold medal. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

With less than a minute to go in the second, Larocque hit Rattray with a breakaway pass that set her towards the U.S. net, but she was hauled down before she could get a shot. The CBC-TV analyst noted the energy that Rattray brings to hockey, saying, “Jamie Lee Rattray has only played 4 minutes and 47 seconds but every time she steps foot on the ice she has an impact shift.”

With just under a minute and a half left in the game, Poulin took out American Cayla Barnes with a knee-on-knee, and was sent to the penalty box.

Team USA pulled the goalie and sent out an extra player. With the game and the gold medal on the line once again, Roque was on the ice when it mattered, and it paid off.

The Americans controlled the pack in the Canadian zone with Roque having a couple of good shots on net. With 13 seconds on the clock, the Canadian goalie couldn’t handle Roque’s shot and her teammate Amanda Kessel pounced on the rebound and scored.

It would not be enough, however. The last few seconds ticked away and Canada won 3-2 for the gold.

The women in the hockey tournament represented the largest contingent of Indigenous athletes in the Olympic games, and they represented well.

In her first Olympics, Rattray finished in the top 10 among scoring leaders with five goals and four assists. In her rookie campaign, Roque, with a goal and two assists, finished in the top nine with a 60 percent face-off efficiency as well as having 34 shots on net.

Larocque continued her stalwart service on defense, racking up big-time minutes and playing against the American top lines. She also continued to play a physical game that put her in second place for total penalty minutes. This is her third Olympic medal, to go with the gold and silver she already won.

Earlier in the day, Team Finland defeated Team Russia to claim the bronze medal.

A handful of other Indigenous athletes competed at the Winter Games in Beijing this year. Liam Gill, Dene, competed for Canada in snowboarding, and Inuk athlete Ukaleq Slettamark of Greenland competed for the Danish commonwealth in the biathlon.

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