Canada holds off U.S. in tense women's hockey showdown

Nurse’s 1st the difference as Lacasse shines in net

By CBC Sports

Canada scored twice in the second period and withstood a barrage from the United States en route to a 2-1 win in women's hockey action at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Geneviève Lacasse stood on her head in net, making 44 saves and denying Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson's penalty shot. Meghan Agosta and Sarah Nurse both scored in the second period to give the Canadians a 3-0 record in the preliminary round. Kendall Coyne was the lone goal-scorer for the Americans, who dropped to 2-1.

There was some consternation at the end of the game, with the U.S. swarming the Canadian net as the final horn sounded. The resulting scuffle was a microcosm of the rough showdown between archrivals.

VIDEO | Canadian and American players scuffle after the final horn

The Canadians thought they had two additional goals: Mélodie Daoust and Marie-Philip Poulin were whistled for a crease violation before Brigette Lacquette's backhander went in during the first period, and Haley Irwin's goal was called back by the referees after it was ruled she kicked in a pass from Natalie Spooner.

Irwin was also called for closing her hand on the puck in a goal-mouth scramble at 16:08 of the second. Lamoureux-Davidson was awarded a penalty shot, but Lacasse deflected the shot wide.

"She came in. I just kept my eye on the puck," the netminder from Kingston, Ont., said. "[She] pulled it through her legs, tried to do something fancy and I just watched it and pushed over and made the save. I didn't wink. I just looked at her."

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.

"Obviously you always want to eliminate shots against, but for me, most importantly I'll look at scoring chances for and against," said Canadian coach Laura Schuler. "How we can generate more and eliminate chances against us."

Finland and the Russian team will play quarterfinal games Saturday against Switzerland and Sweden.

Rivalry renewed in Pyeongchang

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.

With her 16th goal in her fourth Olympics, Agosta moved into second all-time behind Canada's Hayley Wickenheiser (18). The Ruthven, Ont., native 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.

VIDEO | Spooner sets up Agosta for the power-play goal

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. It was the first career Olympic goal for the Hamilton native.

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 the opening faceoff.

Schuler was pleased with Canada's defensive play.

"I think our team was committed to that tonight," she said. "Today, it was about sticking with the process and I think our girls did a good job with that."

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-Renée 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.

With files from The Canadian Press