Canada and the United States resumed their great women's hockey rivalry at the Olympics on Wednesday with the defending gold medalist Canadians coming away with a 3-2 win to close round-robin play in another fantastic battle.
Canada, which has now won 18 straight games at the Olympics, entered the third period in a 1-0 hole after Hilary Knight scored for the US late in the second period, her third goal in as many games. But in the third period the Canadians came out firing and clamped down on the Americans while putting a lot of pressure on American goalie Jessie Vetter.
Meghan Agosta-Marciano was finally able to beat Vetter, scoring the equalizer on the power play less than three minutes into the third. Canada kept coming and a minute and a half later, Hayley Wickenheiser gave Canada a lead it wouldn't relinquish on a controversial goal. Agosta-Marciano would score the game-winner with her second of the game with five minutes left when she broke free on a breakaway against an aggressive USA defense.
For Wickenhayser, the goal was a little more than a go-ahead score. It was the 55th of her World Championship and Olympic career, putting her ahead of Cammy Granato as the sole leader in that category all time in the women's game.
The Americans added some intrigue late when Anne Schleper scored to cut Canada's lead to 3-2 with 1:05 left to play and the American net empty but that was the closest the USA would get.
Certainly there will be focus on the controversial goal for Canada which ended up being the difference in a one-goal game and by the rules, it's pretty clear that it should not have counted. But fact is, Canada dominated the Americans in the third period, recording the first 11 shots on goal and outshooting USA 12-3 in the final period.
It's easy to dismiss the game as rather meaningless considering both teams are already in the semifinals thanks to the restructuring of the Olympic format this year but don't diminish what this could mean from Canada. They have won 18 straight at the Olympics now, including some gold-medal games over the US, yes, but the Americans had won four games in a row against Canada coming into the Olympics.
There's not much denying that on this day, the Canadians were the better team. It's always nice to get that monkey off your back against a rival, even if the streak was only four games. They were able to slow the USA down through the neutral zone and help to contain the American's greatest strength, their speed.
The best American in the game was Vetter who, besides the one that slipped by her on that controversial call, was otherwise outstanding. She faced a lot of pressure in the early game and kept Canada off the board. In total she saved 30 of 33 shots. She was matched by Canada's Charline Labonte for Canada almost save for save. The goaltenders were really on top of their games.
With the win, Canada wins the group, guaranteeing them the top seed in the knockout round. However both the USA and Canada are in the semis and barring a completely unforeseen collapse, they will play again with the gold medal on the line.