Women's Hockey: Canada squeaks by USA in thriller, finishes Olympics group play 3-0
Canada was able to stave off the American women in an intense rematch of 2014's gold medal game
Stop if you've heard this one before: The Canadian women's hockey team just managed to squeak by America in an intense Olympic thriller. In what is most certainly the hottest rivalry in women's hockey, the United States and Canada met for a preliminary match in Pyeongchang on Wednesday night. It was the much-anticipated rematch of the 2014 women's gold medal game in Sochi, which Canada won in overtime.
Despite the Americans pouring on the pressure and outshooting the Canadians 45-23 on Wednesday, it was Canada that prevailed once again, winning 2-1 in a dogfight.
The two North American squads are once again considered favorites this year in the Olympics. Although it wasn't do-or-die, Wednesday's group play matchup was an opportunity for the winner to seize the top seed in Group A (as well as a boost of confidence) as the tournament moves toward its elimination stage.
As expected, the matchup was an intense, animosity-filled one that had all the feelings of a medal-round slugfest. The opening 20 minutes featured plenty of physical play -- including some body checks not typically seen in the women's game --- but no goals.
After USA defenseman Megan Keller was called for interference in the second period, Canada was finally able to draw first blood. Meghan Agosta got the power play goal to give the Canadians a 1-0 lead. It was Agosta's second goal of the tournament, and her 17th career goal in 18 Olympic games.
Canada doubled that lead later in the period when Sarah Nurse sniped top corner from the left faceoff circle, tucking the puck over the shoulder of USA goalie Maddie Rooney and just under the crossbar for the 2-0 lead.
There was some debate over whether the Canadians entered the zone offside prior to Nurse's goal – and it looked like they may have – but USA decided not to challenge the goal.
The United States had a great chance to get one back when they were awarded a penalty shot following a mad scramble for a loose puck in front of the Canada net. As players battled for the puck and bodies piled up in the crease, a Canadian player was whistled for closing her glove on the puck, giving USA a free shot one-on-one.
However, the Americans came up empty when Jocelyne Lamoureux was denied by Canadian goaltender Genevieve Lacasse, who made a blocker save on a backhanded attempt.
All of these things contributed to an extremely frustrating second period for the United States. The Americans outshot Canada 18-6 in that second frame and got a number of near-misses, but it was Canada who got the only two goals of the period.
But Team USA refused to let those frustrations slow their pace and they were quickly rewarded with a goal on the other side of the second intermission.
Kendall Coyne finally broke through and got the Americans on the board with a wrister that found the five-hole on Lacasse just 23 seconds into the third period. That goal cut Canada's lead in half, 2-1, and gave USA hope with plenty of hockey left to play.
Some of that hope looked to fly out the window when Canada's Haley Irwin found the back of the net with just under 10 minutes left in the third. That goal would have given Canada a 3-1 lead, but a review determined that Irwin kicked the puck into the back of the net. The goal was disallowed, and USA remained within a single strike.
Alas, the Americans would never get that strike, though they came very close. With the goalie pulled and an extra skater on the ice, USA unleashed a last-minute barrage that featured a couple of golden opportunities to find an equalizer. But those opportunities resulted in nothing but whiffed shots and goalpost dents. When the clock hit zeroes, it was still Canada on top.
As a result, Canada finishes group play 3-0 while Team USA closes out 2-1. If the Americans seek revenge against Canada, they'll have to find it in the gold medal game a week from Thursday.
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