Olympics women's hockey: Canada edges United States of America 2-1 in renewal of rivalry

Melodie Daoust celebrates with her Canadian teammates after scoring a goal in the second period against Finland.
Bruce Bennett  
Getty Images

Melodie Daoust celebrates with her Canadian teammates after scoring a goal in the second period against Finland. Bruce Bennett Getty Images

In an elimination game, Stauber will hopefully be more willing to throw the challenge out there given the opportunity in a crucial moment.

With the National Hockey League deciding to end its Olympic involvement Canada was forced to assemble a roster of mostly anonymous journeymen and minor leaguers, the absence of marquee names having a bigger impact on attendance than on the ice as Canada rolled to a confidence-boosting win.

The U.S. and Canada are the only two countries to win an Olympic gold medal in women's ice hockey, first introduced a the 1998 games in Nagano.

But Thursday the rewards didn't come.

They also had a prime chance in the first period when Hilary Knight caught Canada in a line change, leaving her alone on a breakaway. The play led to a penalty shot, but Lacasse stopped Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson's between-the-legs attempt with some of that trademark coolness. And not in the third period, when the US was frantically searching for an equalizer, but hit the crossbar.

The Americans unleashed a number of desperation shots in the closing seconds, but Lacasse blocked them all to preserve the heart-pounding win.

"I was smiling and excited", she said. She's now just three shy of retired Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser.

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When asked after the game if he was concerned about not being able to convert so many offensive chances, Stauber insisted he wasn't. "You never know what's going to happen. And pucks either end up over the line or they don't".

The Americans and Canadians pushed, shoved and grabbed each other, sometimes from behind, sometimes mask to mask, and bodies were crashing to the ice repeatedly in front of the net.

The Canadians used goals by Meghan Agosta and Sarah Nurse to beat their biggest rival for a fifth straight game dating back to December. With Megan Keller in the box for interfering with Poulin, Natalie Spooner in her 100th worldwide game spun and hit Agosta in the slot with a backhanded pass. Agosta's shot went off goalie Maddie Rooney's glove and in for the goal.

But for all the shoves and elbows, the contest was at the same time a shining showcase for the beauty of the women's game played at the highest level.

The Canadian players have been so schooled to say next to nothing bolder than the one-game-at-a-time drivel that it's tough to get a read on how confident they are.

Natalie Spooner, playing in her 100th game for Team Canada, made a no-look backhand pass to set up Agosta at 7:18 of the first period to give the Canadians a 1-0 advantage.

Nurse then took things into her own hands and flicked a wrister into the top shelf for the second goal and additional breathing room for Lacasse.

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If the second period deflated the Americans, the start of the third picked them back up.

Canada had two goals waived off due to a kicking motion in the final frame, and a crease violation in the opening period.

With the victory, Canada wins Group A and advances to Monday's semifinals along with the usa, which finished with the second most points in group play despite Thursday's loss. The game didn't impact the team's standing, as the United States will play in the semifinals on February 19, but pride was certainly on the minds of the two rivals.

Most everyone expects a U.S. Canada games are often on the rough side. Amanda Kessel said after Thursday's game that the USA did enough to at least put a bit of doubt into the minds of the Canadians.

"Throughout the year, we actually have made sure with our game times and our practice times that we varied them", Schuler said. "So we just gotta find a way to get those hard-nosed goals".

And then there is their coach, who believes his team is on the cusp of a breakout.

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