BOSTON (AP) — In a women’s hockey rivalry that has seen medals turn from gold to silver in a matter of seconds, or a few inches, the United States and Canada just aren’t sure what to make of the recent spate of blowouts.
Three days after the Americans won 5-2 in Quebec to open a seven-game pre-Olympic exhibition tour, Canada responded with a 5-1 victory on Wednesday that shocked the Americans and the sold-out crowd at Boston University’s Agganis Arena.
”We’re trying to get used to playing each other,” said Canadian forward Natalie Spooner, who scored twice. ”We’re going to have to keep getting better, because I’m sure they’re going to keep getting better, too.”
Laura Fortino’s short-handed goal five minutes into the second period broke a 1-1 tie, and Spooner and Meghan Agosta scored 82 seconds apart at the end of the period to make it 4-1. Spooner also scored in the first period, Marie-Philip Poulin added one in the third and Genevi�ve Lacasse stopped 37 shots for Canada.
Emily Pfalzer scored the only goal for the Americans, tying the game midway through the first. Nicole Hensley stopped 12 of 16 shots before Alex Rigsby came on for the third period and stopped six of seven shots.
The only two real powers in women’s hockey, the U.S. and Canada have played in the gold medal game of every single world championship and all but one Olympics since the sport was added to the Winter Games in 1998.
Five of the last six world championships have been one-goal games; four of them needed overtime. At the Sochi Olympics, Canada took the Americans to OT – and won – after a length-of-the-ice U.S. shot at an empty net rolled into the post and bounced wide.
So it was a bit of a surprise when the U.S. won the opener of the Olympic tuneup exhibition tour by three goals. And perhaps even more shocking that Canada came back a few days later and dropped a 5-1 win on the hosts.
”It was almost the exact opposite,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said. ”Except we only got one.”
Eleven members of the American team that won gold in Nagano were honored between periods, but the game itself did not offer much hope that this year’s players will be able to break a four-Olympic losing streak. (Since 1998, the U.S. has won a bronze and three silvers, including a second-place finish after losing to Canada in overtime in Sochi.)
Still, the U.S. has won seven of the last eight world championships, beating Canada each time.
”For us, we’re working on tipping the scales in our favor every time we play them,” said U.S. captain Meghan Duggan, a two-time Olympian.
Canada coach Laura Schuler, who was a member of the 1998 team that lost to the Americans in Nagano, said she knew her team wasn’t as bad as it was in the opener. ”I just know that when you play the U.S., it’s always going to be back and forth,” she said.
Spooner said the team looked at Sunday’s loss as a learning experience.
”We definitely reflected on it,” she said. ”Luckily, we came back stronger today.”