Canada, U.S. women set for Round 2 on heels of brawl
Pre-Olympic competition continues to heat up
Normally, the second pre-season game in any sport would generate very little – if any – interest among sports fans.
But when the Canadian women’s hockey team faces the U.S., in the second of six exhibition meetings Thursday night in Boisbriand, Que., (7:30 p.m. ET), it will do so with a little more hype.
In the opening game held in Burlington, Vt., last Saturday, a line brawl broke out late in the third period between the two teams that created a buzz on social media.
Trailing 3-2 with more than three minutes left in the game, American forward Monique Lamoureux drove to the front of the net and hit Shannon Szabados, sending the Canadian goalie to the ice.
The clip sparked a brawl to the right of the Canadian end involving all 10 skaters, including Canada’s captain Hayley Wickenheiser.
Two players from each team were assessed major penalties for roughing and game misconducts.
"We had a similar scrap in 2010, so I guess we have one every Olympic cycle to get it out of our system," Wickenheiser told reporters after Canada’s 3-2 win. "It was kind of fun to see, and it brought a lot of intensity to another dog fight with these guys. There are few if any blowouts in this series."
Canadian defenceman Courtney Birchard said her teammates simply took exception to Szabados getting run at..
"I think the number one rule in hockey is you gotta protect your goalie,” she told TSN after Wednesday’s practice. “And someone throws a cheap shot at her you gotta do what you gotta do to take care of business."
Tensions running high
The animosity between the two nations will only increase. The exhibition series is a crucial lead up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics in February.
The two teams – expected to meet in the gold-medal game – will both bring some level of momentum into the Games.
After dropping the first Olympic final in Nagano in 1998 to the Americans, Canada has won three straight gold medals. But the U.S., has taken three of the last four world championships.
The last event was especially tough on the Canadian women, who lost a heartbreaking 3-2 final to the U.S., in Ottawa last April.
Canada's head coach Dan Church admitted his team was still thinking about its loss at the worlds after Saturday’s win.
"I think we wanted to set the tone here for the series," he said. "We also wanted to have a little redemption based on our last game. I think that's the way it's going to go for both teams as we move through this year. No one's going to want to let the other one get up too many, so it was a good start for us."
Wickenheiser was proud of the way the Canadian players supported their goaltender, but doesn’t believe a similar brawl will occur Thursday night.
"We rallied behind one another and the emotional high that you get from being involved in something like that,” she told TSN. “It really isn't expected in women's hockey. It doesn't happen every day."
In the first game, Canada built a 3-0 advantage on goals by Caroline Ouellette, Bailey Bram and Tara Watchorn.
However, the Americans made a game of it after Brianna Decker and Gigi Marvin scored third-period goals, cutting Canada’s advantage to 3-2.
As with most games involving Canada and the U.S., Thursday’s contest is expected to be another close affair.
With files from The Canadian Press