Hockey

Tony Care - Wednesday Feb. 12, 2014 09:43 ET

Canadian hockey women rally to beat U.S.

Meghan Agosta-Marciano celebrates 27th birthday with 2 goals

meaghan-agosta
Canadian Meghan Agosta-Marciano celebrates her third-period goal against Team USA Wednesday in Sochi. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Canada used three third-period goals to rally and beat Team USA 3-2 Wednesday in an Olympic women's hockey preliminary match at Shayba Arena in Sochi, Russia.

Meghan Agosta-Marciano celebrated her 27th birthday with two goals, while Hayley Wickenheiser added her second goal of the tournament.

"I didn't go out there thinking 'I'm going to score on my birthday,'" said Agosta-Marciano. "I scored a hat trick at the Torino Olympics in 2006 [on her 19th birthday], but this is a different Olympics with a different team. They're all so special. The emotion of scoring doesn't get any better."

Hilary Knight and Anne Schleper replied with goals for the U.S.

The game lived up to the advanced hype of women's two hockey superpowers put on a thrilling display. It went right down to the wire. 

Both goaltenders were outstanding. Canada’s Charline Labonté made 25 saves, and American Jessie Vetter stopped 28 pucks.

Canada snapped a four-game losing streak to the Americans and finished Group A with a perfect 3-0 record.

“[The win] felt so good,” Labonté told CBC. “We’ve been struggling a little bit in the past couple of games against them. We’ve worked really hard to readjust and become a better team. They came out really strong as expected so I’m really glad that we came up with the win.”

Both teams advanced to the semifinals.

The U.S. finally broke the scoreless deadlock with only 2:26 left in the second period. With the Americans on the power play, Knight redirected a point shot by Schleper behind Labonté.

The Canadians replied with a power-play goal of their own at 2:21 into the third period. Wickenheiser fed a beautiful back-hand pass to Agosta-Marciano, who buried a one-timer past Vetter.

Canada took a 2-1 lead more than a minute later after some confusion. Vetter stopped Wickenheiser’s initial shot, but the puck slid under her and across the goal-line as American forward Alex Carpenter tried to tuck the rebound back to her goaltender. The goal was reviewed and confirmed.

"There was a whistle and that's why a lot of our girls stopped playing. I mean, in the U.S., we play to the whistle," said Knight. "I don't know if they have audio on the tape but I heard a whistle."

Showing her speed, Agosta-Marciano scored the eventual winning goal with less than six minutes remaining in the third. The 27-year-old grabbed a loose puck at her own blue-line and raced in on a breakaway before beating Vetter.

Schleper made things interesting following her blast by Labonté with 1:05 remaining, but Canada killed off a too-many-men on the ice penalty in the final minute for the victory.

Labonté, Vetter sensational

Labonté and Vetter prevented this game from becoming a shootout. Vetter denied Canada’s surge in the opening period by stopping three partial breakaways to her right side. She also kept her team in it during the early stages of the third period when Canada dominated the edge in play. Labonté was equally impressive. She made her best stops in the second period after robbing Brianna Decker, who was alone in the slot, with a great glove save. Labonté then stoned forward Kelly Stack on a breakaway while Canada was on the power play. 

Dineen gets 1st win

After losing the first three games to the Americans, the Canadian women gave new head coach Kevin Dineen his first victory in this heated series. Dineen took over from Dan Church, who abruptly quit with less than two months before the Sochi Olympics.

Letting them play

There is a unique aspect to the U.S.-Canada rivalry. Bodychecking is not allowed in the women’s game but referees use some leeway considering the fierce nature of this matchup. USA forward Megan Bozak did her best to get under the skin of Canadian players, particularly after the whistles with a little extracurricular pushing and shoving. Shed targeted Wickenheiser early in the first period and then Jayna Hefford later in the frame.

Breaking American dominance

Prior to the Olympics, the teams played seven times, featuring a six-game exhibition series. Canada won the first three times, including a round-robin game of the Four Nations Cup tournament in November. But the Americans won the last four contests before Canada’s victory Wednesday.

Grapes knows animosity

Prior to the game Don Cherry commented on the absolute dislike the teams have for one another.

“There’s a lot of hate in here,” Cherry said. “I’ve seen a lot of hate before – Philadelphia and Boston – but these teams hate each other.”

(With files from Mike Brophy)

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