When the two best teams in the world square off in front of the entire world there is no telling what to expect. When those teams are bitter rivals it becomes a must-see event. The USA vs. Canada women’s ice hockey game this morning lived up to the hype and then some.
Canada roared back from a 1-0 deficit to take the lead 3-1 in the final minutes of the game. With 1:05 left, USA’s Anne Schleper fired home a shot from the blue line to pull her team within one goal. Despite a late power play and a furious finish in the dying seconds, the U.S. couldn’t put home the tying goal. Canada took the game, 3-2, and won Group A. Meghan Agosta-Marciano had two goals, including the game-winner scored on a breakaway.
The contest was a goalie duel for the first half with Jessie Vetter of the U.S. and Charline Labonte of Canada stopping everything that was sent their way. Vetter was the reason USA stayed in the game so long. Though the shot totals started in favor of the Americans, Canada had the better scoring chances, and Vetter had to make a number of tremendous saves to keep them off the board. Finally, late in the second period Team USA broke through Labonte when Hilary Knight tipped a point shot from Alex Carpenter.
Team Canada took the lead in third period on what seemed to be a controversial goal by Haley Wickenheiser. Vetter went to cover the puck shot at her, but it trickled passed over the goal line right after the referee blew the whistle to stop play. They called a goal on the ice and it held up after video review, much to the chagrin of the U.S. Truthfully, the whistle should never have blown in the first place as Vetter never had control of the puck, but goals going in after the whistle shouldn’t count.
The officiating wasn’t at its best throughout the game. The refs missed Canada having too many players on the ice twice. When they finally called them for the infraction with just over 30 seconds left in the game, the refs let the U.S. take a timeout, seemingly forgetting they had already used it. Canadian head coach Kevin Dineen was livid. However, the outcome of the game wasn’t swayed by the refs. Canada was the better team, especially in the third. The U.S. didn’t even have a shot on goal until 3:30 remaining in the game, partly because they couldn’t get through the neutral zone and partly because Canada consistently kept them pinned in their own zone.
This matchup always puts hockey in the spotlight and it was a fantastic showing of how great this sport is. When these two teams meet again (and you can be sure they will) the intensity will be even stronger than it was today, and all eyes will be on women’s hockey one again.