By Dan Burns
BOSTON (Reuters) – Canada thrashed the United States 5-1 on Wednesday in a grudge match between the two teams most likely to compete for the women’s ice hockey gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Canada forward Natalie Spooner scored twice and goaltender Genevieve Lacasse stopped 37 shots in the win. A dominant Canadian penalty kill left the Americans 0-10 on the power play and produced one short-handed goal.
In front of a sell-out crowd at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, which included 12 members of the 1998 gold-medal winning American team, defender Emily Pfalzer scored the United States’ only goal.
“Our girls played fearless tonight,” Canadian coach Laura Schuler said. “They were blocking shots, and getting pucks to the wall and doing the little things they needed to do.”
The game was the second of an exhibition series ahead of the Pyeongchang Games between the only two women’s ice hockey teams to have won Olympic gold. Team USA won the first game 5-2 on Sunday in Quebec City.
U.S. coach Robb Stauber said their failure to score on their 10 power plays was a key factor in the loss.
“You’re not going to win too many games going 0-for-10, so that’s number one,” he said.
Canada opened the scoring in the first period on a two-on-one rush as Spooner, her team’s scoring leader, put away a feed from line mate Meghan Agosta.
The Americans tied the game later in the period on an unassisted goal from Pfalzer.
Canada took the lead for good early in the second period on a shorthanded goal. After a turnover by the Americans inside their own zone, Canadian winger Jillian Saulnier fed streaking defender Laura Fortino, who tipped the puck past goaltender Nicole Hensley.
The Canadians scored twice late in the period, with Spooner netting her second on a scramble in front of the net. Then, with just 15 seconds remaining, Agosta slapped a shot past Hensley, who was replaced by Alex Rigsby at the start of the third.
Marie-Philip Poulin rounded out the scoring in the third period, lifting a wrist shot past Rigsby after a turnover in the Americans’ zone.
The two lopsided wins stand in stark contrast to the narrow margins that have typically decided games between the rivals.
At the Sochi Games in 2014, Canada took the gold medal in a 3-2 come-from-behind win in overtime. Earlier this year the Americans beat Canada 3-2, again in overtime, to capture the women’s world championship.
“I don’t know if there’s an explanation for it,” Spooner said of the latest results. “I don’t think that last game we really brought our best game.
“Today we brought a much more aggressive game.”
The Pyeongchang Winter Games run from Feb. 9 to 21 next year.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)