Controversial goal helps Canada’s women top U.S. at Olympics
After a month of turmoil, exhaustive training and four straight losses to the Americans, you would be forgiven for thinking Canada’s national women’s team was the underdog when it came to defending their gold medal from Vancouver.
Battling with Finland in a scoreless tie through 50 minutes before winning 3-0 Monday night might not have done much to change the minds of those who believed Canada may eventually falter.
They still might, but Canada served notice the difficulties of the last couple of months are behind them now with a 3-2 win Wednesday over the U.S. at Shayba Arena in the final game of the preliminary round.
Canada and the U.S. advance straight to the semifinal next Monday.
Canadian veteran Hayley Wickenheiser, near the centre of recent controversy amid rumours about her future with the team and who had her captaincy removed, keyed the win with a wonderful backhand pass to Meghan Agosta on the power play to tie the game early in the third and then was credited with a flukey one for the lead.
Agosta added her second of the game on a breakaway with five minutes left in the game for a 3-1 lead.
American Anne Schleper scored with 65 seconds left to make for a tense finish with the American net empty and the U.S. on the power play.
In addition to having the captaincy change hands, moving to Caroline Ouellette, Canada underwent a messy coaching change when Dan Church, frustrated by a lack of support from above, resigned and was replaced by former Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen.
But Canada, led by veterans like Wickenheiser, Agosta and Ouellette and some solid goaltending by Charline Labonte, looked like the defending gold medal champions Wednesday.
They had lost the last four games of their pre-Olympic exhibition series to the Americans, but some intense off-ice training had sapped much of their stamina at the time and the players were emotionally ragged after months of being pushed hard to prepare for this big two weeks.
A 10-day retreat in Austria before the Games appears to have re-energized Team Canada.
The Americans took the lead on the type of goal it was going to take in this type of closely contested game, a redirected puck on the power play.
Canada’s Lauriane Rougeau was sent off for bodychecking with three minutes left in the second period. When the puck arrived at the right point, Schleper let go a wrist shot Wickenheiser tried to block. It skirted by her leg and then was tipped with a knee-high stick by American Hilary Knight, whose third goal of the tournament eluded the glove of Labonte.
Wickenheiser made a great pass to Agosta to tie it. The puck came out of a crowd in front and some players might have tried a shot through the forest of legs, but Wickenheiser dished a pass to Agosta at the backdoor.
A minute and a half later, Wickenheiser’s shot was stopped by American goaltender Jessie Vetter, but the puck squirted out and teammate Alex Carpenter tried to tuck it under her.
It wound up slipping out the other side -- while it sounded like the whistle went.
The goal was reviewed and the ruling went in Canada's favour. much to the chagrin of the Americans.
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