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Jincy Dunne: local hockey heroine

St. Louis Blues player David Backes (left) and Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings with Jincy Dunne at the Scottrade Center on Jan. 15.       (Bill Greenblatt/UPI photo)

St. Louis Blues player David Backes (left) and Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings with Jincy Dunne at the Scottrade Center on Jan. 15. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI photo)

O’Fallon’s Jincy Dunne grabs gold with exceptional overtime goal

Scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to help Team USA win the world hockey championship provided a perk that thrilled O’Fallon’s Jincy Dunne.

Dunne, 17, played a big role in helping the United States score a 3-2 victory against Canada in the gold-medal game of the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship in Buffalo, New York. Her power-play shot lifted the United States to the win after also scoring her team’s first goal.

Named the U.S. Player of the Game in the gold medal game, Dunne, who was team captain, also finished the tournament leading all defensemen in scoring with eight points.

And when she returned to O’Fallon, she received another perk – a text message from Blues official Mike Caruso asking if she would like to drop the puck before the recent Blues and Red Wings game.

“Oh my gosh, that was great,” Dunne said. “It took me about 10 seconds to decide. It was so cool. Everyone was so supportive and congratulatory.”

It’s been a whirlwind for Dunne, who has committed to play college hockey at Ohio State, where she will be a pre-med student.

 

Going for gold

Team USA and Canada have played in every gold-medal game since the U18 Women’s World Championship started in 2008. Each team now has won four gold medals, but Canada had won the past three championship games.

Dunne was on the losing side for two of those games, so it was extra sweet to bring home the win this year.

“It’s just been amazing,” Dunne said. “It’s so incredible to win the gold. Our team was fantastic. We worked hard from day one. It’s great to have that medal around my neck. To win the championship on home ice is so special.

Dunne - Cover shot“I’m going to miss it. This was a great group of girls and we had great coaches. It was so fun to be a part of it.”

Her coach agreed.

“It’s just a privilege to be a part of this group. The players deserve all the credit, as does the support staff and everyone that makes this kind of moment possible,” said Joel Johnson, head coach of the U.S. Women’s National U18 Team and the assistant women’s coach at Minnesota. “Having the opportunity to represent USA Hockey is like nothing else. It was a great game, a great tournament, a world class display of women’s hockey at the U18 level, and something all of us will take with us for the rest of our lives.”

After coming close twice, Dunne said she thought this would be the year Team USA broke through.

Dunne got things going for Team USA late in the first period. With 33 seconds left in the period, Dunne tied the game 1-1 with a dead-on backhand shot that went in just under the left corner.

“It was at the end of the period and I realized we had one last play to be made,” Dunne said. “I got a lot of space so I took the puck down the wall. I wanted to get a shot on net. I kept going and I tried to get a shot on net and it went in. I’ll take that every time.”

Johnson said he expected no less from Dunne.

“They had a lot of energy on the puck and were really outskating us,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing more to it than that. They took it to us. That goal at the end of the first by Jincy was a game changer. That’s a kid who’s putting this team on her shoulders.”

With 28 seconds left in regulation and the scored tied at 2, the U.S. drew a penalty. The team failed to score, and after a 15-minute intermission, the U.S. started the overtime with a 4-on-3 power play.

Again, Dunne went to work.

Canada cleared the puck before the U.S. came back on the rush. Dunne blasted the puck, her seventh shot of the game, and scored just 51 seconds into the extra session.

“We tried to run a play right off the bat and it didn’t work,” Dunne said. “We came back down the ice. A teammate hit me with a pass. The defense didn’t stop me. The goalie was kind of screened and I saw a corner and tried to hit it and I did.”

With that, the U.S. was the gold medal winner.

“My first thought was like ‘oh my gosh, we did it. We finally won a gold medal.’ It was amazing,” Dunne said, noting, “I got attacked by my teammates in a good way.

“This was probably my No. 1 goal of all time. It meant we were the world champions. We got the gold medal. I really can’t put words to it.”

 

Lessons in leadership

Dunne is the daughter of Tom and Tammy Dunne. She has attended The Fulton School at St. Albans since she was 3 years old. Her four younger siblings (Joy, James, Josey and Josh) also attend the school. Her older sister (and Ohio State hockey team member), Jessica, graduated from The Fulton School last year.

Her parents and Josh, who is 16, were at the tournament in Buffalo.

“I definitely wanted to win the gold this year,” Dunne said. “Winning isn’t everything but what blew this out of the water for me was my parents were there. My brother Josh was there. My siblings were watching. Everyone I knew wished me luck before we played. We had such a great coaching staff. We made a lot of memories and we had a lot of laughs.”

Dunne was chosen to be the team captain for the second consecutive tournament, but she gives credit to Johnson for making the team a winner.

The girls on the team all play for a high school or club team. Dunne plays for the Chicago Fury. But a week before the tournament began, the team assembled in Buffalo to practice and prepare under Johnson’s leadership.

“I have nothing but great things to say about coach Johnson,” Dunne said. “We worked so much not just on the ice but off the ice. He’s a coach who encouraged us and motivated us and kicked us in the butt when we needed it. He taught us our team values and things we will apply to life as well. We’re all so grateful to have had him as our coach.”

Likewise, Johnson said it was an easy call to make Dunne the captain.

“I trust Jincy a lot,” said Johnson. “And when you have as much skill as she does as an elite player, and you combine it with her leadership ability, sometimes it’s just a natural fit.”

Before the tournament Johnson spoke with Dunne about how he hoped things would work out.

“I said ‘I’d love for you to have the opportunity that when people look back on this tournament they say, that’s the tournament Jincy Dunne took over and she was the best player in the world,’” Johnson said. “I knew she was capable of it and the circumstances had to set themselves up so she could perform the way she did. Then she capitalized. I give all the credit to her. People will be talking about her performance here for a long time.”

Dunne hopes they do and she hopes hockey for women grows and prospers.

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