Canada opened their home-and-home December Series against the United States with a decisive 5-3 victory on enemy ice, dispatching their rivals in Plymouth, Michigan to win the International Hockey Lineal Championship.
As was expected, the game was heated and littered with penalties, with all first period goals coming on the power play. It was Rebecca Johnston striking first for Canada, being sprung on a breakaway by Erin Ambrose, sliding a backhand past U.S. goalie Alex Rigsby for the early lead. Hilary Knight, the perennial Canadian-goalie killer, would strike on Shannon Szabados (who replaced an injured Ann-Renée Desbiens early) to tie the game, blasting a bomb five hole from the top of the slot to even the score at 11:29 of the first. Canada would then enter serious penalty trouble, taking four consecutive penalties in a four minute span, which eventually crescendoed into a 5-on-3 strike for Team USA, with Kelli Stack banging in a loose rebound to take the 2-1 lead into intermission.
While tensions calmed in the second, the U.S. attack did not, with Decker popping in her second of the game on a beautiful wraparound pass from Knight, streaking in on a hapless Szabados for the 3-1 lead. However, it was just four minutes later where the tide of the game turned in an instant, off the stick of U.S. defender Amanda Pelkey of all people, who, thanks to a brutal giveaway in front of Rigsby, set up Jillian Saulnier for the easy goal in front of a wide open net, putting the score at 3-2 after two periods of play.
Canada really took the opportunity to heart in the third period, shifting the offensive tide early in the frame. Johnston tied things up just as an American penalty expired 1:02 into the period, chipping in a rolling puck from a broken Jennifer Wakefield try into the empty corner of the net, with Natalie Spooner putting Canada ahead just 58 seconds later, zipping past Rigsby on a wraparound, sliding the puck into the exposed corner of the net to give Canada the lead for the first time in nearly 30 minutes of play. And despite two late penalties to Canada in the third, the sharp play of Szabados and the momentum for Canada was simply too much to overcome, with Johnston notching a hat trick with an empty net goal to seal the 5-3 victory.
With the win, Canada captures their 32nd International Hockey Lineal Championship, and first since November’s Four Nations Cup, ending the Americans’ incoming reign at just a single game. This game marked the 131st meeting all-time between Canada and Team USA over the IHLC, improving Canada’s record to 75-55-1 all-time, their last meeting being at the aforementioned Four Nations Cup, where the USA won their seventh Gold in a 5-3 win. These two will meet on the other side of the border in two days’ time, this time in Sarnia, Ontario, in their final matchup before next year’s World Championships, right back at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth starting March 31.
06:04 – PEN – Stack, cross checking
06:37 – PP GOAL – Johnston (Ambrose, Krzyzaniak)
08:04 – PEN – Mikkelson, interference
09:53 – PEN – Turnbull, slashing
11:29 – PP GOAL – Knight (M. Lamoureux, J. Lamoureux)
12:37 – PEN – team, too many players
14:52 – PEN – Krzyzaniak, delay of game
15:18 – PEN – Wakefield, cross checking
16:28 – PEN – Larocque, hooking
17:23 – PP2 GOAL – Decker (Knight, J. Lamoureux)
18:54 – PEN – Keller, interference
25:20 – GOAL – Decker (Knight, J. Lamoureux)
27:22 – PEN – Poulin, cross checking
29:52 – GOAL – Saulnier
32:40 – PEN – Rougeau, hooking
38:57 – PEN – Trivigno, interference
41:02 – GOAL – Johnston (Wakefield, Jenner)
42:00 – GOAL – Spooner (Mikkelson, Poulin)
52:36 – PEN – Saulnier, hooking
53:40 – PEN – Larocque, body checking
59:27 – EN GOAL – Johnston (Jenner)
59:48 – PEN – J. Lamoureux, roughing
W: Desbiens (18-18), Szabados (16-19)
L: Rigsby (17-21)
SHOTS ON GOAL
5+7+10 = 22
15+10+12 = 37
Goaltenders: Ann-Renée Desbiens, Shannon Szabados. Defence: Erin Ambrose, Micah Hart, Halli Krzyzaniak, Jocelyne Larocque, Meaghan Mikkelson, Lauriane Rougeau. Forwards: Meghan Agosta (A), Emily Clark, Haley Irwin (A), Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Amy Potomak, Sarah Potomak, Marie-Philip Poulin (C), Jillian Saulnier, Sophie Shirley, Natalie Spooner, Blayre Turnbull, Jennifer Wakefield.
Goaltenders: Nicole Hensley, Alex Rigsby. Defence: Kacey Bellamy, Megan Bozek, Megan Keller, Monique Lamoureux, Emily Pfalzer, Lee Stecklein. Forwards: Hannah Brandt, Alex Carpenter, Kendall Coyne, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan (C), Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux, Annie Pankowski, Amanda Pelkey, Haley Skarupa, Kelli Stack, Dana Trivigno.