LONDON, Ontario (AP) — In a defensive battle, Hilary Knight was in the right place at the right time.
Alex Rigsby made 33 saves and Knight scored as the United States earned a 1-0 victory over Canada on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series between the rivals.
Knight poked a rebound behind goalie Emerance Maschmeyer with 1:40 left in the second period to quiet the announced crowd of 9,036 at Budweiser Gardens.
”We had a lot of girls skating in front of the net, so it was literally a puck that just bounced in my direction,” Knight said, ”but obviously all the work was done on the front end in order for me to get that opportunity.”
The Americans have beaten the Canadian women eight of the past 10 times at major tournaments. Of those 10 games, there was a difference of more than two goals only twice. Six of the games were decided in overtime or a shootout.
”We said our approach to this series is we’re going to use it to help us get better for the world championships,” Canadian coach Perry Pearn said.
Canada had the better opportunities in the first period. The closest the Canadians came to scoring was when Blayre Turnbull sneaked behind the defense and cut in on Rigsby from the right face-off circle. Rigsby made a sprawling save.
Tempers flared in front of the Canadian net as time was running out in the first. The result was minor penalties to both teams, leaving them to close out the period playing 4-on-4.
The Americans continued their strong defense in the third period as Canada was relentless in pursuit of the tying goal. Rigsby was solid throughout.
Pearn said consistency was an issue for his squad.
”The first 15 minutes of the first period and I thought probably the last 12 minutes of the third period we kind of had them on their heels,” he said. ”Unfortunately we had a bit of a bad shift, the second-to-last shift of the game … but other than that I thought we had the best of the play and controlled the opportunities.”
The series continues Feb. 14 in Toronto and concludes Feb. 17 in Detroit.