There might not have been a great deal to read in between, but the bookends were great.
Team USA, which had lost to Team Canada in a thrilling 3-2 shootout on opening night, came back to take a 3-2 victory Tuesday night and win the gold medal in the 2013 women’s world Hockey Championship.
Earlier in the day, the Russian women – a feel-good story in this up-and-down tournament – won the bronze medal with a 2-0 shutout of Finland.
For the Canadians, the loss, which came with a silver medal, dropped them to a still-impressive 14-8-0 record against USA in such competition. The Canadians have also won the last three Olympic gold medals, whereas the Americans took the first, when women’s hockey was first admitted to the Winter Games back in 1998.
As a prelude to Sochi next year, this week in Ottawa serves as a good foreshadowing for the next Olympics.
“It’s a big lead-up,” said Canadian veteran Jayna Hefford.
The annual world championships, however, is “a day we think about all year long,” added Hefford. Both teams know they will meet – they outdistance the competition as diamonds to cut glass – and the U.S.-Canada games are always hard fought and intense.
Sort of like the Leafs-Canadiens rivalry, said Hefford.
No, said teammate Haley Irwin, Habs-Bruins.
In fact, no NHL equivalent is required, as over the years the two elite women’s teams have established a rivalry second to none, and one in which the Scotiabank Place crowd of 13,776 eagerly awaited.
And this match certainly did not disappoint.
It looked bad for Canada early on in the game when American star forward Brianna Decker picked off an errant Canadian pass and broke in all alone on Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados. Szabados, however, deftly kicked out her right pad to cancel Decker’s hard shot.
Moments later, Canada’s Brianne Jenner slapped a hard shot off the American post. Canada then scored, on only their second shot of the game, on a long slapshot by Courtney Birchard that fluttered before slipping past the arm of U.S. goaltender Jessie Vetter.
Canada pressed hard and might have gone ahead by two had Vetter not been able to get a pad on a close shot by Meghan Agosta-Marciano, perhaps Canada’s most dangerous attacker.
The Canadians hit another post – another Birchard point shot – before ending up with a 29-second five-on-three power play. They could not, however, get a puck past Vetter.
The Americans tied the game early in the second when Decker was given another chance, walked in on Szabados and curled a shot around her.
USA took a 2-1 lead after Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser took an elbowing penalty during a penalty-kill, leaving Canada two skaters short. Megan Bozek scored on a low, hard slapshot from the point through a screen of players.
By this point, matters did not look good for the Canadians. With the goal, the Americans had accomplished what they hoped for: to quiet what Team USA forward Monique Lamoureux called a “hostile crowd.”
The young Americans were quicker and more skilled, in particular the line featuring Decker, 21, Kendall Coyne, 20, and 21-year-old Amanda Kessel, sister of Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil.
As Kessel put it, the Americans had wanted to be “in the moment” during this entire game, and it certainly seemed they were for long stretches.
However, with barely two minutes left in the middle period, the “hostile” crowd burst once again to life when Caroline Ouellette put a slap shot from the point high into the back of Vetter’s net.
Kessel had said earlier in the day that her team had no intention of letting this game “slip away,” as had happened opening night, when the Americans held a 2-0 lead and fell 3-2, as well as last World Championship in Burlington, Vt., where much the same happened.
“Hopefully,” said Kessel, “we can get a little revenge here.”
And it would be Kessel who would exact that revenge, dancing in with a puck along the right side and roofing a perfect shot that sent Szabados’s water bottle dancing on the roof of the net.
The Americans outshot the Canadians 30-16 in the end.
The crowd could not score the goal the Canadians needed.
As USA coach Katey Stone had rightly stated, “Ultimately it’s going to come down to what happens inside the glass, not outside.”
And inside the glass, the Americans were clearly the better team.
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