For United States head coach Mark Johnson, losing comes a little easier when done in front of a record-setting crowd.
Jayna Hefford had the lone shootout goal and Charline Labonté stopped all three American shootout attempts as Canada beat the U.S., 3-2 in a pre-Olympic women’s hockey game Friday night in front of 16,347 fans at SBP Arena.
It was the largest Canadian crowd to watch a women’s hockey game, surpassing the previous mark of 15,163 set Jan. 26, 1998 at the Calgary Saddledome.
“We would have liked to win the hockey game, but more importantly women’s hockey was the winner,” said Johnson.
“They’re going to be walking out of the building obviously impressed with what they saw on the ice. I’m very impressed with this crowd and certainly think the players fulfilled their task of entertaining them.”
With the teams tied after a competitive 40 minutes, Meghan Agosta scored at 5:07 of the third period to give Canada a 2-1 lead. Agosta was all alone in front of the U.S. goal after taking a behind-the-net pass from Caroline Ouellette.
The Americans tied the game with 16 seconds to play in the third period when Julie Chu’s point shot found its way through traffic and past Labonté.
Sarah Vaillancourt also scored for Canada, while Jenny Potter (née Schmidgall) had the other goal for the Americans. Jesse Vetter took the loss in the U.S. net, allowing two goals on 26 shots in regulation and overtime.
“You never really want to go to a shootout but I think we battled pretty hard,” Hefford said. “Coming off Christmas break it was a little more difficult than we’d like to see, but winning a game is winning a game.”
The game was the final meeting between the teams before the start of the Vancouver Olympics next month. Canada swept the six-game exhibition series with the U.S., with victories Oct. 5 and 16 and Dec. 12, 15 and 30. They also beat the Americans in the championship game of the Four Nations Cup in early November.
“We can’t think about the past and what has happened, and we also can’t think too far ahead. We’ve just got keep going,” said Agosta, who has eight goals and 13 points in 10 games versus the Americans this season.
Canada opened the scoring 5:18 into the game when Vaillancourt was handed a gift off the stick of American forward Gigi Marvin. Canadian blue-liner Catherine Ward attempted a cross-ice pass, but Marvin tipped the puck directly to Vaillancourt in the slot and she found the top corner behind Vetter.
The Americans tied the game at 7:47 when the Canadian defence couldn’t corral a rebound and Potter converted the chance from in close.
It was the only goal allowed by St. Pierre, who stopped 12 shots. Labonté took over at 9:25 of the second period and made 17 saves to collect the win.
The teams engaged in a chippy and physical second period that produced four minor penalties but no goals.
NOTES: Canada is 55-35-1 all-time against the United States and 7-3 this season…Forwards Hayley Wickenheiser (215) and Jayna Hefford (204) are the only two women to play 200 or more games with Canada’s national team…Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux are not only the first twins on a U.S. women’s national team, but also the first set of sisters to do so.
IHLC: With the shootout win, Canada retains the International Hockey Lineal Championship, their 22nd, that they won in the Four Nations Cup Gold Medal Game, and defended against the U.S. with exhibition victories in Denver, Calgary and Saint Paul throughout December. This game marks the 94th IHLC matchup between Canada and the United States, and last since the aforementioned game in Saint Paul on December 30, a 2-1 Canada victory. This was also the first IHLC matchup in Ottawa in almost ten years, since the 2001 TSN Challenge that the U.S. won over Canada 5-2. The win was the final exhibition game before the Vancouver Olympics, which Canada will open against Slovakia on February 13 with the IHLC in tow.
02:00 – PEN – team, too many players
05:18 – GOAL – Vaillancourt
07:57 – GOAL – Schmidgall (Knight, M. Lamoureux)
25:18 – PEN – Poulin, roughing
31:21 – PEN – Apps, roughing
32:00 – PEN – Ruggiero, slashing
33:40 – PEN – Hefford, slashing
45:07 – GOAL – Agosta (Ouellette)
55:30 – PEN – M. Lamoureux, body checking
58:58 – PEN – Piper, high sticking
59:42 – EA PP GOAL – Chu (Darwitz, Schmidgall)
W: St-Pierre (11-13), Labonté (17-18)
L: Vetter (26-29)
SHOTS ON GOAL
9+7+10+2+1 = 29
11+8+10+2+0 = 31
Goaltenders: Charline Labonté, Kim St-Pierre, Shannon Szabados. Defence: Tessa Bonhomme, Becky Kellar, Carla MacLeod, Meaghan Mikkelson, Colleen Sostorics, Catherine Ward. Forwards: Meghan Agosta, Gillian Apps, Jennifer Botterill, Jayna Hefford (A), Haley Irwin, Rebecca Johnston, Gina Kingsbury, Caroline Ouellette (A), Cherie Piper, Marie-Philip Poulin, Sarah Vaillancourt, Hayley Wickenheiser (C).
Goaltenders: Brianne McLaughlin, Molly Schaus, Jessie Vetter. Defence: Kacey Bellamy, Caitlin Cahow, Lisa Chesson, Molly Engstrom, Angela Ruggiero, Kerry Weiland. Forwards: Julie Chu (A), Natalie Darwitz (C), Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux, Monique Lamoureux, Erika Lawler, Gigi Marvin, Jenny Schmidgall (A), Kelli Stack, Karen Thatcher, Jinelle Zaugg.