When Jessica Campbell felt a deflection off her stick and turned around to see the referee raise her arm, it didn’t sink in that she had just put the finishing touches on a win three years in the making – the overtime goal that gave Canada its first-ever gold medal at the IIHF World Women’s Under-18 Championship.
“I didn’t even realize that I had scored the goal until I was lying on the bottom of the pile,” Campbell, 17, said of the on-ice celebrations that followed Canada’s 5-4 win over the United States. “It happened so fast.”
While those magical moments seemed to flash by in a heartbeat, it was a multitude of moments filled with dedication and determination that led to Campbell’s April 3 goal in Chicago, Ill.
“During our pregame skate … we were just trying to keep our legs fresh and go through the motions of doing the little things right,” Campbell said of last-minute preparations, which could perhaps be compared to an artist perfecting her brush strokes before putting paint to canvas.
“Our (assisstant) coach, Pierre Alain, he had taken a few of us to the one end with the goalies and said,
‘okay, I want to work on redirecting the puck,’ ” she recalled. “So when I saw it go in, that’s the
first thing that came to my mind, was: ‘it worked, it worked!’ ”
The goal – and the game – came together in a true reflection of the team’s motto: Make Each Moment a Masterpiece.
“Every time we stepped onto the ice … we tried to perfect everything,” said Campbell, who led by example as team captain and capped off her success by being named the world championship’s most valuable player.
That’s why the team was careful not to cave under the pressure of gold medal expectations en route to that final matchup against the two-time defending champions, who had beaten Canada in the final of both of the first two world championships.
Even with momentum in favour of their American rivals, who were up 3-1 going into the second and 4-3 heading into the third period, the Canadians remained calm, cool and confident.“We knew that … anything was possible.”
That positivity paid off, and when Jenna McParland stepped up with a power-play goal to tie the game with eight minutes left, according to Campbell, “the energy had been triggered our way.”
But it was that fourth and final period when Campbell and crew polished off their priceless and precedent-setting victory.
“Mélodie Daoust had the puck and she was … going over the blue line,” Campbell remembers. “I just came skating on the ice and she passed it over to one of our defenceman, Erin Ambrose, and she went D-to-D to Brigette Lacquette.”
“I (saw) Brigette had the puck in the high slot, so I wanted to get in front of the goalie and make a screen … and then she took a shot and I got my stick on it and redirected it five-hole,” she said.
And that’s how Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team created its ultimate masterpiece.
“To look back one day and say we were on the first team to win … (is) something really special,” Campbell said. “The team is going to live on for many years to come.