Canada’s National Women’s Team survived a late scare Saturday night to win the opener of an exhibition series against the United States.
Tara Watchorn scored in the third period before the U.S. rallied with two goals, only to fall 3-2 to Canada inside Gutterson Fieldhouse at the University of Vermont.
The game is the first of six meetings between the rivals prior to the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in February.
The results mean little, but the preparation is key for two teams likely to meet again in the gold medal game in Sochi. Canada’s National Women’s Team, the three-time defending Olympic champions, and the U.S., have met in three of four Olympic finals, and all 15 women’s world championships.
The Americans defeated Canada 3-2 in Ottawa, Ont., this year to reclaim the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship title.
Canada’s head coach Dan Church had that loss at the worlds in mind after Saturday’s win.
“I think we wanted to set the tone here for the series,” he said following the game. “We also wanted to have a little redemption based on our last game. I think that’s the way it’s going to go for both teams as we move through this year. No one’s going to want to let the other one get up too many, so it was a good start for us.”
After a scoreless first, Caroline Ouellette and Bailey Bram gave Canada a 2-0 lead in the second period.
Watchorn made it 3-0 on the power play at 4:45 in the third. The 23-year-old defenceman is one of 27 players hoping to make the 21-player Olympic roster. The 27 players are currently based out of Calgary, Alta., where they’re training, travelling from and playing a full schedule of exhibition games not just against the United States, but also against AAA teams across the Alberta Midget Hockey League.
“I’m one of the younger defencemen coming in, and for me I’m just enjoying the entire process and trying to find my role and keep it simple on the blue line, and hopefully be there when the time comes for Sochi,” Watchorn said.
But the Americans certainly made the Canadians work for the win. Brianna Decker scored with a 5-on-3 man advantage at 11:05 in the third and Gigi Marvin got the U.S. within one at 14:39 in the period.
“I thought the first 40 minutes, we really dictated the pace,” Church said. “A couple five-minute (penalties) and a game misconduct there at the end of the game; our players stood up for our goaltender.
Emotionally, that’s really important for our development as a team as well.”
Canada’s Shannon Szabados, who is vying for starts at Sochi with Charline Labonté and Geneviève Lacasse, finished with 15 saves over three periods.
Her American counterpart, Brianne McLaughlin, stopped 26 shots total.
Canada and the U.S. next meet Thursday in Boisbriand, Que.
IHLC: With the victory, Canada captures its 29th International Hockey Lineal Championship, its first since losing the IHLC to the U.S. at the 2013 World Championship finals. The last time these two met in Burlington, Canada won the 2012 World Championships in a 5-4 overtime victory. This was the 112th IHLC meeting between these two teams, who meet next in Boisbriand, Québec on October 20 for the second of six pre-Olympic exhibition games.
15:08 – PEN – M. Lamoureux, tripping
23:09 – PEN – Dunne, body checking
24:16 – PP GOAL – Ouellette (Hefford, Wickenheiser)
25:37 – GOAL – Bram (Kohanchuk, Bendus)
27:59 – PEN – Wakefield, hooking
38:13 – PEN – Wickenheiser, tripping
44:49 – PEN – Knight, body checking
44:54 – PP GOAL – Watchorn (Ward, Wickenheiser)
45:51 – PEN – J. Lamoureux, holding
47:09 – PEN – Chu, tripping
49:57 – PEN – Bendus, tripping
50:05 – PEN – Watchorn, roughing
51:05 – PP2 GOAL – Decker (Carpenter)
54:39 – GOAL – Marvin (J. Lamoureux, M. Lamoureux)
56:37 – PEN – Birchard, roughing
56:37 – PEN – J. Lamoureux, roughing
56:37 – PEN – Bonhomme, roughing
56:37 – PEN – Stack, roughing
W: Szabados (15-17)
L: McLaughlin (26-29)
SHOTS ON GOAL
5+12+12 = 29
4+2+11 = 17
Goaltenders: Charline Labonté, Shannon Szabados. Defence: Courtney Birchard, Tessa Bonhomme, Laura Fortino, Meaghan Mikkelson, Catherine Ward, Tara Watchorn. Forwards: Gillian Apps, Vicki Bendus, Bailey Bram, Jayna Hefford (A), Haley Irwin, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Jenelle Kohanchuk, Caroline Ouellette (C), Natalie Spooner, Jennifer Wakefield, Hayley Wickenheiser (A).
Goaltenders: Brianne McLaughlin, Jessie Vetter. Defence: Megan Bozek, Lisa Chesson, Jincy Dunne, Gigi Marvin, Josephine Pucci, Anne Schleper, Lee Stecklein. Forwards: Kate Buesser, Alex Carpenter, Julie Chu, Kendall Coyne, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan (C), Lyndsay Fry, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux, Monique Lamoureux, Kelli Stack.