America needs more goals
by Lucas Aykroyd|16 FEB 2022
Despite getting a team-high five goals from Hilary Knight (#21) at the 2022 Olympics, the U.S. has been outscored 54-28 by Canada heading into the final.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
If you told someone – either a seasoned women’s hockey observer or a casual fan – before the 2022 Olympics that Canada would outscore the U.S. 54-28 heading into the gold medal game, surely your sanity would have been questioned.

That’s not to take anything away from coach Troy Ryan’s Canadian team, which elevated its game to new heights en route to the gold medal at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship. But keep this in mind: at the same point in Calgary, Canada only had a 31-26 edge in goals over its archrivals.

In Beijing, the Canadians have gone from “keeping their foot on the gas” to “flooring it and outrunning the cops.” Relative to their offensive potential, the Americans are still in second gear. They’re visibly squeezing their sticks, as Canada did at times under past coaches like Laura Schuler and Perry Pearn.

Truly, the 26-goal gap right now between the North American powers is shocking. Now, it’s not surprising that Hilary Knight leads the U.S. in scoring (5+4=9), but you could tell the four-time Olympian and eight-time World Champion wasn’t satisfied with how her team is producing after the hard-fought 4-1 semi-final victory over Finland on Monday.

“Every time I step on the ice I want to win,” said Knight. “You just have to find a way to do it. It wasn’t our best hockey, but we put ourselves in a good position to prepare for the next one.”
If the Americans hope to defend their 2018 Olympic title under coach Joel Johnson at the Wukesong Sports Centre on Thursday, odds are they’ll need to score more than they did in the 4-2 round-robin loss to Canada.

After ending Finland’s gold-medal dreams, Johnson said: “I thought our defensive play was outstanding and that starts in net.” The former University of Minnesota and U18 national team coach is correct on both counts.

His team is tied with Canada for fewest goals conceded (eight) and has allowed a tournament-low 95 shots on goal, with Canada second-best at 133. And U.S. starting goalie Alex Cavallini (0.67 GAA, 95.4 save percentage in three games) is shining at the right time, as epitomized by her stunning back-to-back stops off Michelle Karvinen on a Finnish 2-on-1 rush.

However, even though the U.S. has totalled 10 more goals than the third highest-scoring team here (Finland, 18), what matters now is outscoring Canada.

In Beijing, it’s not as if the U.S. has ignored Wayne Gretzky’s famous dictum, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you take.” In fact, captain Kendall Coyne Schofield (3+2=5) – who leads the tournament with 37 shots – and her teammates have generated 334 shots on goal to Canada’s 311.
In the U.S.’s 4-2 loss to Canada, they outshot their rivals 53-27. The Americans briefly led 2-1 but suffered a crushing reversal when the World Champions roared back with three goals in just 5:25.

Still, apart from the fact that Canadian goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens was absolutely clutch, both the U.S.’s shot selection and its ability to get pucks past Canadian shot-blockers were mediocre.

“It’s great to get zone time and shots on goal, but when they’re blocking as many as they did, shots don’t matter,” Johnson admitted. “We’ve got to find a different way to create higher-quality scoring chances if we expect to win a game like this.”
Getting more balanced scoring would be invaluable as well.

Eight Canadians have scored more than four goals in Beijing, led by Brianne Jenner (nine), who, in the 10-3 semi-final shellacking of Switzerland, tied the Olympic single-tournament record set in 2010 by fellow Canadian Meghan Agosta and Switzerland’s Stefanie Marty. Conversely, only Knight and Alex Carpenter (four goals) – established big American names – have hit the four-goal mark. 

Canada’s edge on the power play – clicking at 45.4 percent to the U.S.’s 23.0 percent – is the icing on the cake.

History underlines just how anomalous it is for the Canadians to hold such a huge offensive advantage over their cross-border foes. As the statistics below reveal, only once at the last six Olympics and once at the last six Women’s Worlds has Canada scored approximately twice as many goals as the Americans. An asterisk appears next to the gold medal-winning team from each year.


1998: U.S. 36*, Canada 29 (six games): 7-goal gap
2002: Canada 35*, U.S. 33 (five games): 2-goal gap
2006: Canada 46*, U.S. 24 (five games): 22-goal gap
2010: Canada 48*, U.S. 40 (five games): 8-goal gap
2014: U.S. 22, Canada 17* (five games): 5-goal gap
2018: Canada 18, U.S. 17* (five games): 1-goal gap

Total Canada goals-for: 193 (6.22 GPG)
Total U.S. goals-for: 172 (5.54 GPG)

Women’s Worlds

2013: Canada 34, U.S. 17* (five games): 17-goal gap
2015: U.S. 37*, Canada 20 (five games): 17-goal gap
2016: U.S. 23*, Canada 20 (five games): 3-goal gap
2017: U.S. 28*, Canada 17 (five games): 11-goal gap
2019: U.S. 41*, Canada 33 (seven games): 8-goal gap
2021: Canada 34*, U.S. 28 (seven games): 7-goal gap

Total U.S. goals-for: 174 (5.11 GPG)
Total Canada goals-for: 158 (4.64 GPG)

In 2006 in Turin, the Canadians won the first of their two consecutive “perfect Olympic gold medals” in which they never trailed or were even tied. In 2013 in Ottawa, Marie-Philip Poulin (6+6=12) captured her lone Women’s Worlds scoring title, but the host nation settled for the silver medal as the U.S. kicked off its run of five straight world titles.

If the Americans can’t find a way to generate more goals in Beijing in a hurry, their dreams of repeating as Olympic champions for the first time ever are in serious jeopardy.