In Saturday’s marquee matchup, the United States staked an early claim to bragging rights in Group A with a 4-2 triumph over Canada at the Malmö Isstadion.
It was the first official IIHF clash between these two powerhouses since the Canadians beat the Americans 3-2 for the 2014 Olympic gold medal, staging a stunning late rally from a 2-0 deficit.
The year after Sochi, the biggest rivalry in women’s hockey is as hot as ever. Canada and the U.S. (the defending World Champions from 2013) have faced each other in all 15 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship finals since the tournament started in 1990.
“I think there’s always that vibe on the ice between these two teams,” said Canada’s Brianne Jenner. “We’re really evenly matched. It’s always a good game. [Sochi is] behind us. The focus is on this Worlds and winning the gold here.”
The Americans got the upper hand here with their high-speed, high-skill approach, and their power play clicked three times. They outshot Canada by a convincing 34-11 margin.
Jocelyne Lamoureux, Hannah Brandt, Kendall Coyne, and Hilary Knight scored for the Americans, and Kacey Bellamy had a pair of helpers. Jenner and Jennifer Wakefield replied for Canada.
“It’s very exciting,” said Bellamy. “Obviously the U.S.-Canada rivalry is what we live for, what we train for. We just wanted to start off on a good note. I think it was a really great team effort out there.”
The U.S. takes pride in having won five of the last seven World Women’s Championships. They draw heavily on college talent. Ten of their current players also took part in the NCAA’s Frozen Four tournament last weekend, where Minnesota defeated Harvard 4-1 in the final for its fifth college title since 2004
Canadian goalie Geneviève Lacasse made her IIHF debut between the pipes. She did not see any playing time in Sochi, but she backstopped Canada to gold in November at the Four Nations Cup in Kamloops, Canada, the site of the 2016 Women’s Worlds. U.S. netminder Jessie Vetter, a four-time world champion, secured the three-point victory here.
The Americans opened the scoring at 4:04 on a two-man advantage. They worked it effectively around the perimeter, and Jocelyne Lamoureux stepped off the goal line to Lacasse’s right and roofed it past her glove.
At 7:23, Canada tied it up when Jenner burst in on a breakaway and beat Vetter with a heads-up backhand move.
“I think as a rightie, if you can pull it across quickly, then you have a good shot,” Jenner said.
Vetter came up big when Canada’s Kelly Terry hammered one from close range with about nine minutes left in the first period.
The Americans went up 2-1 on a 5-on-4 at 11:45 as Bellamy’s rising shot from the left point was tipped by Brandt and found the back of the net through traffic.
It was 3-1 for the U.S. with 1:31 left in the first when Coyne tapped the puck in on the power play after a quick Bellamy shot from the right circle.
“I think we came to work hard, but I didn’t think we were working that smart,” said Canadian coach Doug Derraugh. “We just had to believe in the system and stick to what our game plan was and not just get running around and chasing the puck.”
Just 57 seconds into the second period, Wakefield narrowed the gap to 3-2 on a partial breakaway, fighting off American blueliner Emily Pfalzer’s stick check and, like Jenner, scoring on the backhand.
At 6:29 of the third, Knight put the Americans up 4-2, finishing off a nice rush with her linemates, Coyne and Brianna Decker, as she charged to the net.
The Canadians had no answer, despite calling a timeout and pulling their goalie with 1:23 remaining. Shots were 10-2 for the U.S. in the final stanza.
Forward Marie-Philip Poulin debuted as Canada’s new captain. The 24-year-old Quebec native scored the last-minute tying goal and the overtime winner in the last Olympic final. She also got the winner in Canada’s 2-0 gold medal win over the U.S. in Vancouver in 2010.
Of this game, Poulin said: “It went well in the second and third, but not well enough.”
Both teams have brought new-look, youth-laden rosters to this tournament. Close to half the players participating in this game did not suit up in Sochi.
Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser, the all-time leading scorer in Olympic and World Women’s Championship history, is out with a broken foot, and the U.S’s Amanda Kessel, the 2013 winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award as college hockey’s best player, is recovering from a concussion. Other longtime stalwarts like Canada’s Jayna Hefford and Shannon Szabados and the U.S.’s Julie Chu also did not make the trip to Sweden.
Canada faces Russia on Sunday, while the U.S. will confront Finland.
“They’re a good European team, a fast team,” Bellamy said of the Finns. “They can use the Olympic sheet to their advantage. We’ve got to move the puck, use our feet, and really get on them.”
IHLC: With the win, the United States wins their 28th International Hockey Lineal Championship and first since December 2013, in the first of four consecutive exhibition wins in the lead-up to Sochi, where the U.S. held the IHLC until a 3-2 Preliminary Round loss, followed by their Gold Medal Game collapse. This marked the 123rd meeting between these bitter rivals over the IHLC, the last being Canada’s 3-2 shootout win at the Four Nations Cup in November. However, the U.S. should not necessarily consider themselves at an advantage, as the winner of the last three (2009, 2012 and 2013) opening round Canada-USA tilts at the Worlds have gone on to then lose the Gold Medal Game, which could mean Canada’s 11th title is close at hand. The U.S. faces Finland next tomorrow with the IHLC on the line in group play.
03:24 – PEN – Poulin, body checking
03:29 – PEN – Krzyzaniak, delay of game
04:04 – PP2 GOAL – J. Lamoureux (Picard, M. Lamoureux)
07:23 – GOAL – Jenner (Spooner, Wakefield)
07:35 – PEN – Knight, hooking
10:18 – PEN – Ouellette, holding
11:45 – PP GOAL – Bellamy
17:00 – PEN – Larocque, holding
18:29 – PP GOAL – Coyne (Bellamy, Schleper)
20:57 – GOAL – Wakefield (Spooner, Jenner)
28:30 – PEN – J. Lamoureux, slashing
35:03 – PEN – Brandt, delay of game
40:00 – PEN – Spooner, hooking
46:29 – GOAL – Knight (Coyne, Decker)
49:21 – PEN – Knight, elbowing
53:48 – PEN – Spooner, hooking
W: Vetter (9-11)
L: Lacasse (30-34)
SHOTS ON GOAL
15+9+10 = 34
4+5+2 = 11
Goaltenders: Alex Rigsby, Jessie Vetter. Defence: Kacey Bellamy, Monique Lamoureux, Emily Pfalzer, Michelle Picard, Anne Schleper, Lee Stecklein. Forwards: Stephanie Anderson, Hannah Brandt, Dani Cameranesi, Alex Carpenter (A), Kendall Coyne, Brianna Decker (A), Meghan Duggan (C), Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux, Annie Pankowski, Haley Skarupa, Dana Trivigno.
Goaltenders: Ann-Renée Desbiens, Geneviève Lacasse. Defence: Courtney Birchard, Laura Fortino, Halli Krzyzaniak, Brigette Lacquette, Jocelyne Larocque, Lauriane Rougeau (A), Tara Watchorn. Forwards: Bailey Bram, Jessica Campbell, Emily Clark, Sarah Davis, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston (A), Caroline Ouellette, Marie-Philip Poulin (C), Jamie Lee Rattray, Jillian Saulnier, Natalie Spooner, Kelly Terry, Jennifer Wakefield.