The United States finally ended its eight-year medal drought in long-track speedskating, as the women’s team pursuit squad fought its way to an unexpected bronze.

Despite boasting two of the best skaters in the world in Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe, the U.S. team only gained entry into the eight-strong field when Russia was ousted as part of doping-related sanctions. It made the most of its chance.

With Mia Manganello skating superbly to complete the trio, the Americans fought off a spirited challenge from Canada to triumph in the bronze-medal showdown.

It had earlier been defeated by an unstoppable Netherlands group. In truth, the U.S. barely put up a fight in the semi, consciously so, resting Bowe and subbing in Carlijn Schoutens - then allowing Schoutens to do much of the lead work to keep Bergsma and Manganello as fresh as possible.

WATCH: U.S. women's speed skating wins first medal in 16 years

Bergsma had previously had a deeply disappointing Games, while Bowe had come close to medaling with a fourth and two fifth-place finishes in individual events.

The medal was a major relief to the U.S. camp, having completely blanked at Sochi four years ago and unable to get on the podium in South Korea. Until now.