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Canada hangs on for 2-1 win over U.S. in Olympic women’s hockey game

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

GANGNEUNG, Korea, Republic Of — The Canadian women’s hockey team kept its perfect record intact at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Thursday with a hard-fought 2-1 win over the rival United States.

Meghan Agosta of Ruthven, Ont., and Hamilton’s Sara Nurse scored for Canada in the second period, while Kendall Coyne countered for the U.S. in the third.

Genevieve Lacasse of Kingston, Ont., made 44 saves in Canada’s net and stopped Jocelyne Lamoreux-Davidson on a penalty shot in the second period.

American goaltender Maddie Rooney turned away 21 of 23 shots.

Both countries had already booked berths in Monday’s semifinals having won their first two games in Pool A.

Finland and the Russian team will play quarter-final games Saturday against Switzerland and Sweden.

With her 16th goal in her fourth Olympics, Agosta moved into second all-time behind Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser (18).

One of the most storied rivalries in sport has only heated up in recent years. Canada may have won four straight Olympic gold medals, but the United States has claimed seven of the last eight world championships.

After a scoreless first period, Canada struck twice in the second and Lacasse stoned Lamoureux-Davidson late in the period.

But Coyne beat Lacasse between the pads 23 seconds into the third to halve Canada’s lead.

After a review, officials decided Haley Irwin kicked in the puck and ruled no goal midway through the period.

Irwin was also called for closing her hand on the puck in a goal-mouth scramble at 16:08 of the second. Lacasse deflected Lamoureux-Davidson’s penalty-shot attempt wide.

Agosta elbowed a U.S. defender in the face less than a minute later, but the Canadians killed off the penalty.

Nurse’s wrist shot off Rooney’s right shoulder deflected into the top of the net at 14:56 of the second.

Agosta scored a power-play goal at 7:18 on a backhand feed from Natalie Spooner at the corner of the U.S. net. Rooney got a piece of Agosta’s shot, but not enough to prevent the goal.

Canada spent most of the opening five minutes of the game in their own end as the Americans pressed. Lacasse stoned an all-alone Hilary Knight four minutes after faceoff.

Canadian defender Brigette Lacquette roofed a backhand over Rooney late in the period, but the whistle was already sounding for players in the crease and it was quickly waived off.

Canada went 5-1 against the Americans in a six-game exhibition series this winter, although the U.S. beat Canada twice to win November’s Four Nations Cup tournament in Florida.

Thursday’s game was their first meeting since Canada edged the U.S. 2-1 in overtime Dec. 17 in Edmonton.

Both teams were clearly fatigued in that game as players on both sides were in full-fledged training mode. They hadn’t yet started their taper to peak for the Games.

Canadian head coach Laura Schuler played all three goaltenders in the preliminary round.

Ann-Renee Desbiens posted an 18-save shutout against Russia in her Olympic debut Sunday. Veteran netminder Shannon Szabados had 22 saves in Canada’s 4-1 win over Finland on Tuesday.

The Olympic hockey schedule has all teams, men’s and women’s, starting games at varied hours.

The Canadian women have had puck drops at 9:10 p.m. and 4:40 p.m. and Thursday’s game started just after noon local time.

“Throughout the year, we actually have made sure with our game times and our practice times that we varied them,” Schuler said.

The women played their final exhibition game before the games — against a university men’s team in Incheon, South Korea — at 10 p.m.

Report: Eichel invited to join Team USA at Worlds

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Jack Eichel and Jimmy Vesey are hoping to join Team USA at next month’s World Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic.

Eichel is of course expected to be one of the top two picks at June’s NHL Draft. The 2015 Hobey Baker winner led Boston University to the final of the frozen four where they fell 4-3 to Providence on Saturday.

Vesey, a third-round pick of the Nashville Predators (66th overall in 2012), just completed his third year at Harvard.

Meanwhile, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug reports Tyler Ennis and Cody Eakin are both headed overseas to represent Canada at the tournament.

Ennis has represented Canada internationally at the Under-20 tournament while it’ll be Eakin’s first time playing for Team Canada.

Rishaug also reports Ryan Johansen, Logan Couture and Jamie Benn have declined invites from Hockey Canada.

Report: Jackets’ Todd Richards to coach Team USA at Worlds

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The Columbus Blue Jackets conclude their season Saturday night when they visit the New York Islanders. However, Jackets’ head coach Todd Richards may have a little more coaching to do before enjoying the offseason.

According to Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch, Richards is expected to be named Team USA’s head coach for the World Hockey Championships.

Richards is no stranger to the international game. The 48-year-old Minnesota native served as an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. He was also an assistant coach of the U.S. team at the 2010 World Championship in Germany.

On Wednesday Hockey Canada announced its management staff for the tournament, which begins May 1.

PHT Morning Skate: Berglund’s scoring touch is back

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Patrik Berglund’s Swedish eyes are smiling after scoring six goals in the past eight games, including two against Nashville on Saturday. (The Post-Dispatch)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,200 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s late NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $275. Starts Monday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

With all the injuries the Detroit Red Wings have, they need Jimmy Howard to be their savior. (Detroit Free Press)

That Nail Yakupov is such a bad teammate, you guys. He’s so bad that coach Dallas Eakins loved seeing him come to help out Matt Hendricks when dealing with some Hurricanes in a scuffle. This sarcasm doing anything for you? (Edmonton Journal)

The Tampa Bay Lightning will be erecting a statue for former captain Dave Andreychuk. Winning a Stanley Cup gets you some pretty great perks. (Tampa Tribune)

Give it up to Team Canada women’s team goalie Shannon Szabados who made her ECHL debut. Awesome stuff. (NHL.com)

Big time kudos to the United States Paralympic hockey team that took gold at the Paralympics in Sochi. (USA Hockey)

Finally, check out the video tribute the Buffalo Sabres played for Thomas Vanek who played in his first game in Buffalo since being traded back in late October. Vanek said after the game: “My previous experience when someone else came back, they didn’t do much so I didn’t know what to expect, but I thought it was very nice and very classy of them.” Take that, Darcy Regier.

Online oddsmaker makes Canada 2/1 favorite to beat Sweden

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With just two days until the gold medal game between Canada and Sweden and only hours until the bronze medal game, that doesn’t leave much time for wondering what the odds are in each game.

Online oddsmaker Bovada.lv has come through and, for entertainment’s sake, they’ve got the North American teams looking good to win against their Scandinavian opponents.

Bovada lists Canada as a 2/1 favorite to win gold against Sweden. The odds on the Swedes winning are a bit longer at 33/20.

Both teams head into the game on Sunday (7 a.m. ET Sunday on NBC) undefeated and both teams are coming off one-goal wins against rivals. Team Canada defeated Team USA 1-0 while Sweden beat Finland 2-1.

In the bronze medal game, Bovada lists Team USA as a 19/10 favorite, virtually 2/1, to beat Finland. The Finns, meanwhile, are 8/5 to beat the United States. Those two face off Saturday (10 a.m. ET on NBCSN) for the third-place hardware.

If betting on a team isn’t your thing, the over/under on number of total goals scored in each games is 4.5. With how goaltending has been all tournament, good luck betting the over.