Kevin Dineen is still looking for his first win as head coach of Canada’s National Women’s Team, but after nearly completing a comeback victory over the United States on Saturday, he says he’s comfortable with the ability of his new squad.
Canada rallied with third-period goals from Marie-Philip Poulin and Meghan Agosta-Marciano to tie the game and force overtime before American Hilary Knight scored the winner in a shootout to lift the U.S. over Canada 3-2, and take a third straight victory in their six-game pre-Olympic exhibition series.
Dineen, who replaced Dan Church as head coach after Church stepped down unexpectedly two weeks ago, was behind the bench for Canada’s 4-1 loss to the U.S. in Grand Forks, N.D., last week.
“We set a standard today for how we have to play. I thought we had a good tempo to our game, and we’re just looking for our baseline,” Dineen said. “I was not impressed with our game in North Dakota. I think we were totally outworked and outplayed and certainly outcoached.
“Tonight we had a lot better symmetry, chemistry, but we had more than that. There was a good intensity that gave us an opportunity to win the game.”
Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter scored for the Americans, while goaltender Jessie Vetter stopped 37 shots in regulation time and overtime.
Agosta-Marciano opened the scoring for Canada off a pass from Hayley Wickenheiser at 8:36 of the third period, and Poulin made it 2-2 less than two minutes later on the power play.
Poulin, who scored both of Canada’s goals in a 2-0 win over the U.S. in the final of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C., made her first appearance of the exhibition series after spraining her ankle in September.
“It felt pretty good to put that jersey on and go out there with my teammates, but it’s not the result that we wanted,” Poulin said. “It was a good comeback in the third, but a tough loss in the shootout.
“The last two games they came at us pretty hard and it was two tough losses. Today we wanted to go out there and play our game as hard as we could and that’s what we did in the third.”
Dineen says he was happy to have Poulin back out on the ice.
“She showed the skill set that makes her the special player that she is, and with her in the lineup I think we’re a stronger team,” he said. “It was good to get her and Hayley Wickenheiser back.”
Canada’s Charline Labonté stopped 27 shots, including a spectacular save that kept the game tied with under three minutes to go. Labonté robbed Brianna Decker by sliding across the crease to kick the puck away with her right leg.
Though Canada’s Olympic roster is set, Labonté is fighting for the starting goalie job along with Shannon Szabados and Geneviève Lacasse.
“(Labonté) was unbelievable tonight,” Dineen said. “There’s still a little dispute in net as to how that’s going to all figure out, but I think they’re doing a good job of making the statement that they want to be in the mix come February.”
Canada plays the U.S. in the final game of the exhibition series at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., on Monday, Dec. 30.
IHLC: With the victory, the 117th meeting between these rivals with the IHLC on the line, Team USA retains the IHLC, their 27th, after its third consecutive exhibition game victory over Team Canada. They first won in the third game of the series in Calgary on December 12, and will play the final game of the series in two days’ time in Toronto, with the winner to carry the IHLC to the Sochi Olympics in February.
01:42 – PEN – Decker, roughing
04:40 – PEN – Larocque, interference
08:45 – PEN – Stecklein, holding
09:06 – PEN – J. Lamoureux, boarding
13:54 – GOAL – Stack (Knight)
25:25 – PEN – Wakefield, body checking
25:45 – PEN – Apps, charging
29:22 – PEN – Decker, high sticking
33:52 – PEN – Fry, hooking
39:26 – PEN – Irwin, high sticking
39:51 – PP GOAL – Carpenter (Stack, Bozek)
43:52 – PEN – Marvin, tripping
48:31 – PEN – Irwin, roughing
48:31 – PEN – Pucci, body checking
48:36 – GOAL – Agosta (Wickenheiser)
49:10 – PEN – Schleper, body checking
49:50 – PP GOAL – Poulin (Birchard, Ward)
53:05 – PEN – Larocque, interference
53:15 – PEN – Stack, slashing
W: Vetter (37-39)
L: Labonté (28-30)
SHOTS ON GOAL
9+9+7+5 = 30
11+8+17+2 = 38
Goaltenders: Brianne McLaughlin, Molly Schaus, Jessie Vetter. Defence: Kacey Bellamy, Megan Bozek, Gigi Marvin, Michelle Picard, Josephine Pucci, Anne Schleper, Lee Stecklein. Forwards: Alex Carpenter, Julie Chu, Kendall Coyne, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan (C), Lyndsay Fry, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux, Monique Lamoureux, Kelli Stack.
Goaltenders: Charline Labonté, Geneviève Lacasse. Defence: Courtney Birchard, Laura Fortino, Jocelyne Larocque, Meaghan Mikkelson, Lauriane Rougeau, Catherine Ward. Forwards: Meghan Agosta, Gillian Apps, Mélodie Daoust, Jayna Hefford (A), Haley Irwin, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Caroline Ouellette (C), Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner, Jennifer Wakefield, Hayley Wickenheiser (A).