OTTAWA – Canada beat the U.S. in Vermont last year to win gold, and the Americans have returned the favour, scoring the only goal of the third period to win back the title with a thrilling 3-2 win.
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The win is the fifth WW gold for the Americans, who have now won the last pre-Olympics championship for the third straight time.
Amanda Kessel broke the 2-2 tie with a wrist shot early in the third that eluded goalie Shannon Szabados.
"I feel like it’s revenge," Kessel agreed. "We got beat on our home soil last year. To come into Canada and win the gold medal is unbelievable. We used our speed and worked hard. It gives us great confidence heading to Sochi."
"Any time we play Canada and lose, we want to have the chance to prove ourselves," agreed captain Julie Chu. "We knew what they were capable of doing. They put on our heels in that first game, and we wanted to make sure we weren’t tonight. We wanted to force them so they wouldn’t be in our end so much."
The first ten minutes were tentatively and nervously played by both sides, but Brianna Decker had a sensational chance to open the scoring when she was stopped by Szabados on a clear breakaway. Decker led all skaters with nine shots in the game. No Canadian had more than two, and captain Hayley Wickenheiser was held without a single shot.
A short time later Canada’s Brianne Jenner wired a long shot off the post, and that got both teams to open up.
Canada got the only goal of the period on a long shot. Courtney Birchard, a left-hand shot, blasted the puck from the right wing while backing up. The trajectory fooled Vetter, who looked shaky all night, and the puck slipped under her arm. It was definitely the kind of shot she’d save 99 times out of 100.
The rest of the period saw many fine scoring chances both ways. Birchard hit the post later and Meghan Agosta-Marciano also had a great chance in front. Meghan Duggan also was stoned by Szabados, who was rock solid in the opening 20 minutes.
The middle period was nothing short of sensational. The Americans tied the game at 2:43 on a nice off-wing rush from Decker. She cut in on goal and as Szabados fell tucked the puck in. Canada picked up the pace, but the Americans went to another gear and drew several penalties.
The visitors took the lead for the first time at 14:26 on a two-man advantage. Megan Bozek’s slapshot through thraffic found the back of the net and silenced the crowd, and the U.S. picked up the pace, taking it to the Canadians. It was only the fine play of Szabados that kept the score close.
"We used the crowd to our advantage," Kessel said. "When we scored and they went silent, there’s no better feeling."
And then, just like that, Canada got a power play and struck seven seconds later. Caroline Ouellette brought the puck off the right-wing boards and whistled a slapshot past Vetter at 17:50 to tie the game and set up another classic third period between these great rivals.
The Americans took the lead at 3:08 of the final period off a turnover at centre ice. Amanda Kessel carried the puck in on a two-on-one and wristed a high shot over Szabados's shoulder to make it a 3-2 game.
"This week wasn’t easy for us," said gold-medallist Meghan Duggan. "If you look at some of the things that happened. We lost a tough one in overtime in the first game of the tournament, had to battle hard to beat Finland and Switzerland. Today, we came together as a team. I couldn’t be more proud of the girls."
"It wasn’t our best game today," said Canadian Bailey Bram. "It would have been nice to get one early and get a little momentum. Bottom line, they were the better team tonight. We didn’t execute. We ran into penalty trouble and it cost us the game."
In the end, the Americans played at a higher level for 60 minutes and the Canadians took too many penalties. Total power-play time heavily favoured the victors, 10:08 to 2:53.
"It came down to specialty teams," Wickenheiser acknowledged. "They had a lot of power plays, and we didn’t. But we had a lot of chances early on and we didn’t capitalize. I think she was shaky all night but we have to take advantage of that, and we didn’t.
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