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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.

Szabados backstops Canada’s women to 2-1 OT win vs U.S.

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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Goaltender Shannon Szabados says the 2-1 overtime win Sunday against the United States ranks high on her list.

The 31-year-old made 34 saves in her hometown for the national women’s hockey team. Jennifer Wakefield scored the winner on a loose puck in the crease with 27 seconds remaining in overtime.

Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored a power-play goal with 2:45 remaining in the first period. Hilary Knight tied it for the U.S. with 5:58 left in the second on an assist from Kendall Coyne.

Szabados was the goalie for Olympic gold-medal victories against the U.S. in 2010 and 2014. She held Canada in the game on Sunday when her team was outshot 25-10 over the second and third periods.

”This is probably for sure in my top five,” said Szabados, who estimated she had about 300 friends and family in the stands. ”I feel like I’ve played in some pretty big games. This was pretty incredible.”

Maddie Rooney had 24 saves in the loss at the Rogers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers, where the announced attendance was just short of a sellout at 17,468. It’s also shy of the record for a women’s hockey game set in Ottawa at 18,023 in 2013.

”We’re a highly skilled team and we need to make sure that we go out and play fast,” said U.S. coach Robb Stauber, whose team was outshot 5-2 in the first period. ”The goal for us is to be hitting on all cylinders in February.”

Canada wrapped up their six-game exhibition series with a 5-1 record against the Americans. The rivals won’t meet again until their pool game Feb. 15 at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

”These are great games for us to tune up against each other,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said. ”Obviously, it’s the best competition playing against them, we feel.”

How much the results in the pre-Olympic series will matter in February is debatable. Canada lost four in a row to the U.S. in exhibitions before earning gold in overtime at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Canada opens defense of its gold on Feb. 11 against Russia, which recently had six players banned by the International Olympic Committee for doping violations and had its sixth-place result in 2014 stripped.

The Americans won the inaugural women’s hockey event at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. The Canadians have won four straight gold medals since then, with the U.S teams finishing with three silver and a bronze.

The 23-player U.S. roster will be announced on Jan. 1.

Canada beats US 3-1 in women’s hockey Olympic tuneup

AP
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Haley Irwin and Sarah Nurse scored in the second period, sending Canada to a 3-1 victory over the United States on Friday night in the latest Olympic tuneup between the world’s top powers in women’s hockey.

Marie-Philip Poulin also scored for Canada, and Ann-Renee Desbiens made 25 saves.

Brianna Decker opened the scoring for the U.S. with a power-play goal early in the second. Alex Rigsby stopped 33 shots in defeat.

Poulin made it 3-1 with her goal 55 seconds into the third.

It was the fifth of six meetings between the rivals as they prepare for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. They play again Sunday night in Edmonton, Alberta.

Canada has won four of the five recent matchups, after the Americans took the series opener Oct. 22 in Quebec City.

”We just have to be better in the red zones – that’s the difference between winning and losing,” United States coach Robb Stauber said. ”We’ll give some focus and energy to some things we think we can do better, and we’re going to go into Edmonton and see what that end result looks like.”

The last four Olympic gold medals in women’s hockey have gone to Canada, but the U.S. has won seven of the past eight world championships.

U.S. women’s hockey team to play NWHL team in Olympic tune-up

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NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. women’s national team will play two exhibitions against some familiar faces from the National Women’s Hockey League next month in a final tune-up for the Olympics.

The games are set for Jan. 13 and Jan. 15 at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Florida, where the national team has been training.

Eleven players currently on the U.S. roster competed in the NWHL during the 2016-17 season, USA Hockey said Thursday. The pro league enters its third season with teams in New York, Boston, Buffalo and Stamford, Connecticut.

”(The NWHL) continues to play at an elite level and does a great job of exposing the game in different markets,” USA Hockey women’s director Reagan Carey said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Megan Bozek and Emily Pfalzer helped the Buffalo Beauts win the NWHL championship last March.

”The NWHL is honored to be welcomed by USA Hockey and to participate in this pair of important exhibition games,” NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan said. ”Our players, coaches and staff are excited to have this opportunity.”

U.S. national team captain Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Gigi Marvin, Brianna Decker, Kacey Bellamy, Alex Carpenter and Amanda Pelkey played for the Boston Pride.

Amanda Kessel (New York Riveters) and Haley Skarupa (Connecticut Whale) also played in the pro league.

Many of the players on both rosters are either ex-teammates or completed against each other in college and the pros.

”The NWHL will do its best to give the players some strong competition so they’re ready to bring home the gold in February,” Rylan said.

The U.S. team won gold at the first women’s hockey event, at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Since then, the team has earned three silvers and a bronze in losses to Canada.

”We want to make sure the ’98 team has some company with the gold medal,” Carey said.

The Americans and Canadians will finish their six-game exhibition series with two games this weekend. The U.S. has a 1-3 record so far, but beat its rivals twice at The Four Nations Cup and won the title.

The teams have drawn good crowds in Canada and U.S. stops in Boston and St. Paul, Minnesota. They drew 9,000 flag-waving fans on Dec. 3 in a 2-1 overtime loss at the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild.

”It’s been great to see so many young girls and hockey teams,” Carey said. ”You can really see the growing landscape for young girls.”

The U.S. plays Canada on Friday night in San Jose, California. The Americans wrap up the series on Sunday night at Rogers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers, in a game televised on NHL Network.

U.S. women hope bond forged by pay fight leads to Olympic gold

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By TERESA M. WALKER (AP Sports Writer)

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — Hilary Knight was listening to the radio when she heard the U.S. women’s hockey team come up.

It wasn’t about a big win on the ice. It was about a fight off the ice that ended with a better labor deal.

”It’s a big deal,” the two-time Olympic silver medalist said. ”Women’s hockey now is on the map. And not only did we fight for things in our sport for the next generation, but hopefully we inspired other people outside.”

Threatening to boycott the world championships last March landed the United States women’s national hockey team a pay raise and some of the perks USA Hockey gives the men. Standing together to earn a deal reached only three days before playing rival Canada to kick off the world championships brought them closer together, a bond they used to win their fourth straight world title.

The Americans believe their chemistry couldn’t be stronger and could help them achieve their ultimate goal: ending a 20-year drought by winning Olympic gold at the 2018 Winter Games.

Knight says a delicate balance is required.

”After a win like that on both fronts, you sort of feel untouchable,” Knight said. ”You’ve changed the world. You’re hoping that you’ve changed the other industries for the better. But also, too, realizing you have to have humility and the opponent’s right around the corner, building, working, doing the same things you’re doing, and every time you show up at the rink it’s a 50-50 battle and you’ve got to be at the top of that battle.”

Earning better pay was something the Americans had fought for, and lost, before.

Angela Ruggiero, currently a member of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board, had to work as a security guard the summer before the 1998 Olympics to make a few extra bucks. Ruggiero said her team had a similar fight in 2000 and that it was time again for a ”a real, contested sort of debate.”

”They stood their ground and fought for what they believe was right,” she said of the current team.

Timing mattered.

The United States had won the world championships seven times when the women threatened March 15 to boycott the IIHF Women’s World Championship after a year of negotiations. They stuck together until a new four-year contract was reached March 28. The Americans received support from the unions for the NHL, NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball along with 16 U.S. senators.

Under the new contract, USA Hockey will be putting more money into women’s hockey with the national team receiving the same $50 per diem per day as the men along with similar travel and insurance perks. A women’s advisory group also is supposed to feature former and current players to help grow women’s hockey.

The women also are receiving more money per month during Olympic training, which began in September. Winning gold would mean bonuses of $57,500 from the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Hockey combined.

”It’s been great to see progress since then, where USA team athletes can just play hockey,” Ruggiero said. ”That’s not to say you’ll make a lot of money, but it defers some of the expense of meals, rent and travel.”

The Canadians, winners of the last three Olympic gold medals, took notice. Canada puts more money into the sport in part because of government funding, and Hockey Canada officials said players are supported full-time for nine months around the Olympics.

”It’s amazing that they’ve brought women’s hockey a step closer to where it should be, and I think in time it’s only a matter of when as female athletes we’ll be able to play the game we love and get paid,” Canadian forward Meghan Agosta said of the Americans. ”I think hockey’s come a long way and they kind of set the bar high.”

The U.S. women found themselves honored by the Women’s Sports Foundation in October with the Wilma Rudolph Courage award . They’ve heard from politicians, celebrities and people like Billie Jean King.

In the end, what will matter most is how the Americans fare on what remains the biggest stage for women’s hockey when the Olympics begin in February in South Korea. They’ve beaten Canada three out of four games this fall as part of their pre-Olympic exhibition tour, including twice in winning their third straight Four Nations Cup championship.

U.S. coach Robb Stauber said the players’ unity was a great thing in reaching the new contract. But Stauber said different goals often require a different approach, though the women’s bond can carry over.

”You got to stick together,” Stauber said.

Defenseman Gigi Marvin, a two-time silver medalist and the team’s oldest player at 30, said the Americans already have established that they’re a very close group. And captain Meghan Duggan said the bond they have gave them energy and momentum they used at the world championships. They also learned a lot about themselves through that fight.

”For sure, it brought us closer,” Duggan said. ”Right now we’re focused … on doing what we need to do to achieve our ultimate goal.”