It happens quickly on a 4-on-3 power play in overtime with a series of passes and a swift wrist shot.
Until just four-and-a-half minutes prior to the end of regulation, the Canadian National women’s hockey team had been in a 2-0 hole to the United States in Sochi, Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics. Goals from Brianne Jenner and Boston University’s own Marie-Philip Poulin cut into and eliminated the lead by the time the clock displayed about 54.6 seconds left to play.
Eight minutes into overtime, Poulin did it again.
The puck sails past U.S. goaltender Jessie Vetter, beating her stick side, finding its way to the back of the net: a golden goal.
A flurry of gloves and sticks fill the air. Poulin celebrates in a subdued way, her shoulders, head and hands dropping, her stick hitting the ice. No running man, no windmill, no pumping her arms deliriously. She looks up, beaming from ear-to-ear at the bench full of her teammates, who are now all leaping over the boards to celebrate their country’s fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in women’s ice hockey.
They had completed the comeback.
“I actually didn’t believe that it actually went in,” Poulin said. “That we actually went back into the game and won. It was quite the feeling.
“It was really stressful. It was a stressful moment. It was a great play by Laura Fortino, who passed the puck around, and she really she made the play. She froze the D, the goalie and she passed it to me, and I was at the right place in the right moment. And I guess I was lucky enough that I would be there.”
But Poulin is no stranger to scoring impact goals. She did so four years prior in her first Olympics, the 2010 Vancouver games. It was not in as dramatic a fashion as 2014, but the Beauceville, Quebec native netted both tallies in a 2-0 shutout of the United States that year. Both feats are impressive, but Poulin said she favors this year’s result over her first.
“In Vancouver, it was so amazing to be there, and I didn’t know what to expect,” Poulin said. “And to be honest, I don’t know how it happened, those two goals, but [I was] at the right place at the right moment, and I thought it was a fairytale.
“But looking back at Sochi, I think it was even better. I don’t know it just, the way it happened, the team, the teamwork that happened during that last game was unbelievable, and I still can’t believe it happened. And when I look back, it’s just two of my dreams that came true that sometimes I need to pinch myself to realize that it’s actually real.”
In Beauceville, according to Poulin, everyone knows each other. It is a small city in the southeastern part of the province, home to a little over 6,000 people. The Chaudière River cuts through it, the predominant language spoken is French and like most of Canada, its residents are big into hockey. When she goes home, people stop her in the grocery store to chat. They ask how she’s doing, how things are going in Boston.
Poulin’s own hockey tenure started there when she was 4 years old. She had been figure skating and did not like it all that much. Instead, she decided to follow in the footsteps of her older brother and one of her mentors, Pier-Alexandre, and give hockey a try.
“I wanted to do the same as him,” she said. “The first time I wore those black skates, I knew it was my passion.”
Poulin’s parents, Robert and Danye, were very supportive of their children’s burgeoning hockey careers, driving the two of them to and from practice every day, making food for them and working two jobs to pick up extra money for hockey wherever they could.
“My mom would drive with me, my dad would go with my brother, they always worked two jobs,” Poulin said. “Every time I see them, I for sure thank them for everything they’ve done for me and my brother.”
And that is something Poulin does often. She is quick to acknowledge everything people have done for her and how they have helped get her to where she is today. When she received her gold medal, all the left-shooting center could think about were the people who helped get her to that moment. She thought of her family and her coaches and how they gave her the push she needed to succeed through the years.
One of those people was actually an idol of hers growing up in Caroline Ouellette, whom she has played with at multiple levels. At 16, Poulin left home for the first time and went to play for the Montreal Stars of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Ouellette joined the team a year later, after Poulin had earned CWHL Outstanding Rookie honors. Poulin would play with Ouellette in the two Olympics she competed in, as well as four IIHF World Women’s Championships and one Four Nations Cup.
“The first time I met her, I was really nervous because she was my idol when I was young,” Poulin said. “She was a big mentor of mine. She helped me throughout all those years, and she took me under her wing and really showed me the way.”
With already a large number of accolades to her name, Poulin put on a different scarlet and white jersey and joined BU in fall 2010. In her freshman season, she was named Hockey East Rookie of the Year and came in second for Player of the Year with 47 points in 28 games.
Save for an 18-game stretch where she was benched due to injury during her sophomore season, Poulin’s past two years with BU have been just as notable as her first. Now captain of the Terriers, the 5-foot-6-inch senior is happy to be in Boston with the team again after a year away.
“Being back here at BU, looking back on my three years, I think being part of the BU family is quite special,” Poulin said. “When you come here, you feel you’re part of the BU family. You’re part of the sports team here, and it’s pretty awesome.”
BU coach Brian Durocher said he is more than glad to have Poulin back for not only her play, but also her attitude on and off the ice.
“She’s a fantastic teammate,” Durocher said. “[She’s] somebody who cares about the most important kid or high-profile kid on the team as well as she cares about whoever the third string goalie or the odd person out in a game is as well. She really is a genuine teammate.”
Both Durocher and Poulin recognize the forward is more of a quiet leader than anything else. Durocher stresses that she does not speak often, but when she does, her teammates listen. She does not talk to hear the sound of her own voice, Durocher said, but does speak when she feels something needs to be addressed.
Poulin admits she has been trying to be more vocal this year, also hoping her teammates notice her work ethic and just how much effort she puts in, as well as the fact that she just wants to be there for them.
“The girls are awesome,” Poulin said. “They’re quite something. They make me feel young at heart for sure. They bring a lot of energy on and off the ice, and I know I’m pretty lucky to be a part of this team.”
Poulin is majoring in psychology at BU, and while she does not know exactly what she wants to do with her degree yet, after some more playing, coaching is something she is drawn to and would like to pursue in the future.
With all of the experiences she’s had, it’s clear that the Olympian possesses a wealth of knowledge that she can pass on to hockey hopefuls.
“I would love to coach one day,” Poulin said. “I think being able to give back to the little kids, the little girls, little boys, I think I would love that … to work with them and maybe just teach them what people taught me when I was a kid.”