The opening game of the Playoff Round at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre on Saturday was a true see-saw struggle. To the delight of the sell-out crowd, a pink-clad Canadian squad rallied from a 4-2 second-period deficit to earn a 5-4 shootout victory over the arch-rival USA. Hayley Wickenheiser scored the decisive goal.
Shooting fourth after Natalie Darwitz and Julie Chu had failed to score for the USA and Sarah Vaillancourt likewise for Canada, Wickenheiser skated in with a series of dekes and then beat USA netminder Jessie Vetter five-hole. Gigi Marvin missed her chance to keep the Americans alive by firing the puck over the crossbar.
“I think it was a great game for the fans, but from our standpoint, it wasn’t our best game,” said Wickenheiser, Team Canada’s captain. “We came out of it with a win, but we still have a lot of work to do. Sure, you gotta score to win, but I don’t want to be ‘winning games’ for us. I want all four lines to be rolling. I think it’s always a team effort, but when you get into a shootout, anything can happen.”
It was the first shootout in a non-elimination or non-placement game in the history of IIHF women’s competition.
This was the most anticipated game of the tournament to date, and if it was a preview of the Gold medal game, women’s hockey fans are in for an action-packed doozy.
“I thought our defence handled the pressure well,” said Head Coach Melody Davidson. “They did some good things, but it wasn’t so much about our defence. Sometimes it was our wingers on the wall, just making better decisions. We had our ups and downs, but overall, I was OK with what we were doing.”
In regulation time, Wickenheiser paced Canada with a goal and two assists, while Gillian Apps had a goal and an assist, and Kelly Bechard and Sarah Vaillancourt also scored.
Natalie Darwitz and Krissy Wendell had a goal and an assist apiece for the Americans, while Jenny Potter and Gigi Marvin added singles.
“It’s a huge rivalry, and we have work to do,” said Potter. “We can’t come out flat like that. We have to come out and be all over them to win battles. They’re a good team.”
The first IIHF World Women’s Championship meeting between these two teams since the 2005 final featured a youth-on-youth matchup of goalies, with Canada’s 24-year-old Charline Labonté versus the USA’s Vetter, age 21. Final shots favoured Canada 31-29.
“Playing the US is always a good game, always good times,” said Labonté. “Those are the kinds of games we want to play. But this was a weird game. It was either garbage goals or beautiful goals. I don’t think I gave up any bad goals, and I don’t think (Vetter) did either.”
The American power play, which entered this game clicking at a tournament-best 71.4 percent, managed one goal on three power play opportunities.
The attendance at the USA-Canada game set a new IIHF single-game record of 15,003.
The teams started off skating at a tempo previously unparalleled in this tournament, and tape-to-tape passes and ramped-up physical play were also on display.
Canada jumped into a 1-0 lead at 1:21 when Kelly Bechard went hard to the net and tipped in a feed from Katie Weatherston past Vetter’s left skate.
At 3:19, Labonte showed she was ready to play, flashing the leather to thwart Jenny Potter when the American forward broke into the Canadian zone and snapped a quick shot on goal.
The USA went to the power play a minute later after Gillian Apps was nabbed for hooking, but the best opportunity went to Canada shorthanded, as Sarah Vaillancourt got a step on USA blueliner Angela Ruggiero and nearly got a full breakaway, with Gina Kingsbury following up unsuccessfully on the rebound. Ruggiero’s hooking minor on the play nullified the American advantage.
At 7:49, Jenny Potter created the USA’s 1-1 tying goal off the rush, as she fed the puck left to Kristin King and then cashed in the rebound with a half-empty net after Labonté made the original stop.
The teams traded quality chances past the midway point of the period, and both goalies came up big. Hayley Wickenheiser raced down right wing and fed a trailing Tessa Bonhomme in the slot for a chance Vetter stopped, and the Americans came right back, with Erika Lawler setting up Natalie Darwitz and forcing Labonté to slide across.
The Americans grabbed a 2-1 lead at 17:47 when Darwitz circled into the slot and unleashed a high wrister that was tipped by Krissy Wendell and beat Labonté high over the glove through traffic.
Canada drew even early in the second period on a two-man advantage, as the USA ran into penalty trouble with three consecutive minors. Wickenheiser’s blueline drive was stopped by Vetter, but she couldn’t control the rebound, and Vaillancourt batted it high into the net at 3:21.
At 6:52, the Americans made it a 3-2 lead when Meghan Duggan fed Gigi Marvin in the faceoff circle to Labonte’s left, and Marvin zinged a wrister high past the Canadian goalie on the short side.
Just over two minutes later, it was 4-2 when the Americans stormed the Canadian net during a man advantage, and Darwitz and Wendell were the catalysts again. Darwitz fed Wendell cross-crease, and Labonté barely stopped the puck with her glove as it trickled behind her, but Darwitz was able to tuck in the rebound.
Canada could have collapsed, but it didn’t. The crowd’s chants of “Go Canada Go” seemed to inspire the host team.
At 12:23, Canada cut the deficit to 4-3 when Gillian Apps caused an American turnover in the defensive zone and fed Wickenheiser perfectly on a 2-on-1 down low, enabling the captain to hesitate and then fire a perfect shot glove side. Then at 14:57, the Canadians tied it up when Wickenheiser’s shot from the faceoff circle to Vetter’s right deflected to Apps, who had the open side of the net to bang in the puck.
Labonté made a brilliant save on an American shorthanded 2-on-1 late in the second period. Erika Lawler backhanded the puck across to Gigi Marvin, and the Canadian netminder flung her arm down to block Marvin’s attempt.
The physicality, stick work and pace really picked up in the third period, with almost no whistles in the first half. Canada went to the power play at 8:20 when Darwitz illegally creamed Wickenheiser inside the American blueline. Vetter foiled Daniele Goyette on a good close-in chance, and deflected away a Colleen Sostorics blast from the line.
The USA had a great chance to get the go-ahead goal when Apps was sent off for hooking, again, at 16:08. Canada’s plight worsened at 17:23 when Bechard pushed Darwitz into the sideboards from behind, putting the Americans on a two-man advantage.
The Americans called a time-out to formulate strategy, and their power play subsequently exerted enormous pressure. But Labonté proved equal to the test, stoning Darwitz by her right post, Molly Engstrom from the blueline, and Wendell in close by the other post. The teams skated furiously as regulation time wound down.
Canada couldn’t capitalize on two big chances in overtime. The USA’s Jenny Potter stopped skating and hooked Caroline Ouellette in the neutral zone at 3:25 of the extra frame. During the ensuing man advantage, Vetter made her best stop on Jennifer Botterill after Jayna Hefford’s cross-crease feed. With 1:08 left in the 10-minute overtime, Potter took a kneeing penalty, but Canada couldn’t get anything going.
Following the first period, 16 members of the Gold medal-winning 1990 World Championship team were introduced to the crowd (excluding Vicky Sunohara), along with Scott McMaster, whose father Dave (now deceased) coached that team, and members of the 1990 staff. A big-screen video montage of 1990 highlights got a big round of applause.
The Player of the Game for Canada was, naturally, Hayley Wickenheiser, while Natalie Darwitz was chosen for the USA.
01:21 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Bechard (Weatherston)
04:08 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Apps, hooking
05:14 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Ruggiero, hooking
07:49 – 🇺🇸 GOAL – Schmidgall (King)
17:47 – 🇺🇸 GOAL – Wendell (Darwitz, Lawler)
20:27 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Schmidgall, body checking
22:02 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Marvin, hooking
22:43 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Ruggiero, tripping
23:21 – 🇨🇦 PP2 GOAL – Vaillancourt (Wickenheiser, Botterill)
26:52 – 🇺🇸 GOAL – Marvin (Duggan, Zaugg)
29:47 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Pounder, high sticking
31:06 – 🇺🇸 PP GOAL – Darwitz (Wendell)
32:23 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Wickenheiser (Apps)
34:57 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Apps (Wickenheiser, Collins)
36:20 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Ruggiero, hooking
44:13 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Bonhomme, holding
48:20 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Darwitz, charging
56:08 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Apps, hooking
57:23 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Bechard, checking from behind + 10 min. misconduct
63:25 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Schmidgall, hooking
68:52 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Schmidgall, kneeing
🇺🇸 Darwitz stopped
🇨🇦 Vaillancourt stopped
🇺🇸 Chu stopped
🇨🇦 Wickenheiser scored
🇺🇸 Marvin stopped
W: 🇨🇦 Labonté (25-29)
L: 🇺🇸 Vetter (26-31)
SHOTS ON GOAL
🇨🇦 8+12+6+4+1 = 31
🇺🇸 10+6+9+4+0 = 29
🇨🇦 Goaltenders: Charline Labonté, Kim St-Pierre. Defence: Tessa Bonhomme, Delaney Collins, Gillian Ferrari, Carla MacLeod, Cheryl Pounder, Colleen Sostorics. Forwards: Meghan Agosta, Gillian Apps, Kelly Bechard, Jennifer Botterill, Danielle Goyette, Jayna Hefford, Gina Kingsbury, Caroline Ouellette, Vicky Sunohara, Sarah Vaillancourt, Katie Weatherston, Hayley Wickenheiser.
🇺🇸 Goaltenders: Chanda Gunn, Jessie Vetter. Defence: Caitlin Cahow, Molly Engstrom, Meghan Halcisak, Helen Resor, Angela Ruggiero, Kerry Weiland. Forwards: Julie Chu, Natalie Darwitz, Meghan Duggan, Tiffany Hagge, Kristin King, Hilary Knight, Erika Lawler, Gigi Marvin, Sarah Parsons, Jenny Schmidgall, Krissy Wendell, Jinelle Zaugg.
|🇨🇦 CANADA (C)||vs.||UNITED STATES 🇺🇸|
(since 20 Feb 2006)
|Last Title||17 Feb 2006|
(+ 1 tie)
|First IHLC Meeting (CAN vs. USA)
🇨🇦 CAN 2-1 USA 🇺🇸 – 21 Apr 1987 – WWT – North York 🇨🇦
|Previous IHLC Meeting (CAN vs. USA)
🇨🇦 CAN 5-2 USA 🇺🇸 – 11 Nov 2006 – FNC – Kitchener 🇨🇦 🏅
|Last IHLC Game
🇨🇦 CAN 8-0 GER 🇩🇪 – 05 Apr 2007 – WWC – Winnipeg 🇨🇦
|Next IHLC Game
🇨🇦 CAN 5-0 FIN 🇫🇮 – 09 Apr 2007 – WWC – Winnipeg 🇨🇦