A preoccupied Canada’s National Women’s Team fell 5-1 to the United States on Thursday, as the red and white tried to come to grips with the sudden resignation of their head coach.
Canada wasn’t in the game from the outset. Head coach Dan Church left Calgary in the morning without addressing the players. Assistant coaches Danielle Goyette and Lisa Haley are co-coaching the team until Church’s replacement is named.
The loss snapped Canada’s three-game winning streak against the Americans since losing to them in this year’s final at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in April.
Canada mustered just 10 shots on U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter in the first two periods and 16 overall at the Markin MacPhail Centre, Hockey Canada’s home arena in Calgary.
Alex Carpenter, Meghan Duggan, Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight, with Megan Bozek adding an empty-netter for the U.S.
Defenceman Tara Watchorn scored the lone goal for the Canadians after they fell behind 3-0. Goaltender Shannon Szabados stopped 24 of 28 shots.
“It was an emotional day,” forward Caroline Ouellette said. “A lot of different feelings around the team.”
“I suspect that’s always the case when a head coach steps down in the NHL. It’s just never happened to us. I think we have some people who are feeling mixed emotions.
“That’s not an excuse. We clearly were not the better team tonight. There are a lot of areas of our play that were exposed and that we weren’t good at. Our passing wasn’t sharp, our changes, and those are details we cannot have go that bad.
“Maybe we were cruising a little bit, having three successful games against them. They took what made us successful in the past games and shoved it at us. They were better on the forecheck and quicker on loose pucks,” Ouellette said.
“Any situation like that can happen at the Olympics,” she said. “It could happen at the world championship. If something happens really major, we have to be able to turn the switch for two and a half hours and play the game and take care of business,” she said.
Canada’s all-time leading scorer Hayley Wickenheiser suffered a lower-body injury on her second shift. The forward went down in the neutral zone, got up slowly and skated in pain to the bench.
She briefly returned to the ice late in the first period, but did not appear the rest of the game.
“The doctor had a quick look at her,” Haley said. “She doesn’t feel it’s anything too serious. Obviously they’re going to take another look at it tomorrow to see how it responds, but everybody is pretty optimistic; it’s going to be a day-to-day thing.”
Canada and the U.S. scheduled six exhibition games against each other prior to the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Canada won the first two and also beat the Americans 4-2 in the preliminary round of the 2013 4 Nations Cup tournament in November. The two sides meet again Dec. 20 in Grand Forks, N.D., Dec. 28 in St. Paul, Minn., and Dec. 30 in Toronto.
The Americans were also upset 3-0 by Finland in at the 4 Nations Cup, so they were highly motivated to beat Canada on the opposition’s home ice Thursday. The Americans have individual speed and skill, which makes them lethal on the power play. They scored twice with a man-advantage.
“We’ve just been working on getting better,” U.S. head coach Katey Stone said. “We need to get better in our end. That has been the primary focus since November, honestly. Not throwing pucks around and chasing pucks. Trying to possess as many pucks as we can and working our way up the ice zone by zone.
“It sounds really dull, but it’s paying dividends for us. We’ve got plenty of kids who are creative offensively, explosive offensively. We let them go, but we’ve got to take care of their own end,” she said.
Canada’s team game has been superior because the women play high-tempo games against male Midget AAA teams. But the host team’s game was disjointed Thursday.
“We have to respect Dan Church’s decision, but at the same time we have to go to work,” Goyette said. “But, hey, we’re human. Right now it’s difficult for the team and difficult for everybody around the team.
“Tonight it was hard to focus, but we can’t use that as an excuse. I don’t think we played the game tonight. I think we were watching the game and it cost us.”
IHLC: With the win, the United States captures their 27th International Hockey Lineal Championship, after winning the third of six pre-Olympic exhibition games with Team Canada. Canada entered the game as IHLC champions after sweeping the Four Nations Cup a month prior, winning that IHLC title in the first game of the series on October 12, 3-2, and following it up with a second straight win on October 17. This was the 115th meeting of the women’s hockey rivals, who will meet next in the fourth game of the series in Grand Forks, North Dakota on December 20.
04:49 – PEN – Daoust, holding
10:01 – PEN – Watchorn, body checking
10:15 – PEN – Hefford, tripping
11:29 – PP2 GOAL – Carpenter (Marvin, Stack)
15:30 – PEN – Pucci, holding
18:56 – PEN – Knight, tripping
22:42 – GOAL – Decker (Fry, Coyne)
23:01 – PEN – Bendus, hooking
41:05 – PEN – M. Lamoureux, body checking
42:19 – PEN – Ouellette, hooking
43:56 – PEN – Apps, high sticking
44:30 – PP GOAL – Duggan (Pucci, Decker)
49:37 – GOAL – Watchorn (Apps)
50:17 – GOAL – Knight (Stack)
58:58 – PEN – Marvin, cross checking
59:58 – EN GOAL – Bozek
W: Vetter (15-16)
L: Szabados (24-29)
SHOTS ON GOAL
9+12+8 = 29
5+5+6 = 16
Goaltenders: Brianne McLaughlin, Molly Schaus, Jessie Vetter. Defence: Kacey Bellamy, Megan Bozek, Lisa Chesson, Jincy Dunne, Gigi Marvin, Michelle Picard, Josephine Pucci, Anne Schleper, Lee Stecklein. Forwards: Kate Buesser, Alex Carpenter, Julie Chu, Kendall Coyne, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan (C), Lyndsay Fry, Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux, Monique Lamoureux, Annie Pankowski, Kelli Stack.
Goaltenders: Charline Labonté, Geneviève Lacasse, Shannon Szabados. Defence: Courtney Birchard, Tessa Bonhomme, Laura Fortino, Brigette Lacquette, Jocelyne Larocque, Meaghan Mikkelson, Lauriane Rougeau, Catherine Ward, Tara Watchorn. Forwards: Meghan Agosta, Gillian Apps, Vicki Bendus, Bailey Bram, Mélodie Daoust, Jayna Hefford (A), Haley Irwin, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Jenelle Kohanchuk, Caroline Ouellette (C), Natalie Spooner, Jennifer Wakefield, Hayley Wickenheiser (A).