Canada 3, USA 1: Canada’s Women’s Hockey Team Rallies to Beat Americans in Olympic Prelu

The Red and White Riding High After Third Straight Win Over American Rivals

Team Canada players swarm together after scoring against USA. Courtesy USA Hockey Images

SAN JOSE – Team Canada skated away with a 3-1 win over Team USA in front of 6,098 boisterous fans at SAP Center on Friday night.

The win was Canada’s third straight against the Americans in the team’s run-up to the Olympics. The red and white have recorded four wins in the seven matchups with the Americans thus far as part of their North American tour ahead of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Despite conceding the opening goal, Canada battled back, taking advantage of defensive breakdowns by the Americans to score three unanswered goals on their way to victory.

“It’s important to stick to the game plan,” said Team Canada forward Melodie Daoust. “[Canada Head coach] Laura Schuler told us between periods to stick with it and good things will happen. We didn’t panic at all being down a goal and it paid off in the end.”

“We have to be better,” said Team USA head coach Robb Stauber. “There were way too many chances that we didn’t take advantage of. The girls know it and that’s a great thing.”

Canada’s win was also bolstered by starter Ann-Renée Desbiens, who stopped 25 shots in the winning effort and was named player of the game for Canada. It was a redemption performance for the La Malbaie, Que. native. She was the losing goaltender of record in two of Canada’s three defeats to the Americans: a 5-2 defeat in Quebec City on Oct. 22 and a 4-2 loss in the preliminary round of the Four Nations Cup in Tampa Bay.

“[Desbiens] was amazing tonight,” said Team Canada defender Lauriane Rougeau. “She redeemed herself. For us to have a goaltender that has a lot of confidence and move the puck the way that she did is huge.”

“She played incredibly,” said Team Canada’s Sarah Nurse. “She came out and really showed that she wants that spot and she is not giving up without a fight.”

The game shifted on a rather controversial goal scored by Nurse in the latter stages of the second period. Emily Clark worked hard to get the puck in front to Nurse and an oncoming Laura Stacey. The puck inadvertently deflected off Nurse’s skate and past Team USA goaltender Alex Rigsby for the go-ahead marker.

Canada would go on the win the game 3-1. Courtesy USA Hockey Images

The tally was initially waved off as the referees did not see the puck cross the goal line. After it was determined that the puck had indeed found its way to the back of the net, Team USA challenged for goaltender interference. But following a brief video review, the goal was finally deemed legal.

“There was a lot of commotion going on,” said Nurse. “I didn’t see the puck cross the line. My linemate was 100 per cent sure it crossed the line so she was making a big stink about it. The video doesn’t lie.”

“I couldn’t move because there was someone on top of me,” said Rigsby. “It was an unfortunate call. Obviously, I thought it was goaltender interference but that’s how it works sometimes.”

“I’ve watched the replay six times now and I’m almost sure that in other leagues, that’s goalie interference,” said Stauber. “There’s obvious contact with Rigsby. It is what it is.”

Canada wasted little time building off the goal in the third period. Just 55 seconds into the final frame, Meghan Agosta found linemate Marie-Philip Poulin unattended in the slot. Poulin fired a rocket past Rigsby to give Canada a 3-0 lead. Melodie Daoust, a McGill alum and Les Canadiennes de Montréal’s 2017 first round draft pick, also collected an assist on the play.

The two Quebecers enjoyed being reunited once again—the duo played under-18 hockey together with Team Quebec—and hope to continue to build chemistry not only with Team Canada, but with Les Canadiennes, as well.

“We bring a lot as a line,” said Daoust. “We have lots of speed and chemistry together. We complete each other very well and it was great to play with them again.”

“It was great to have Daoust back in the lineup,” said Poulin. “We had some good chances. There’s still room for growth though.”

After a scoreless opening frame, it was the United States that got on the board thanks to a power play marker from USA’s top unit of Kendall Coyne, Brianna Decker, and Hilary Knight. Decker, on a pass from Knight, buried it past Desbiens to cut USA’s deficit to 3-1 just two minutes into the second period.

Ten minutes later, Canada’s Haley Irwin sent a backhander on goal that trickled through Rigsby’s legs and into the back of the net and got the team back on track.

Canada continued to battle hard after the goal, with notable sustained drives by Poulin’s line, forward Brianne Jenner and Rougeau, the team ultimately being rewarded with their two subsequent goals.

“When our forwards are doing such a great job with forechecking and backchecking, it gives the defense a good chance to stay in the game and have a good gap,” said Rougeau. “I saw the opportunity there a couple of times to help the offense and be creative.”