Canadian comeback complete
by Erin Brown|23 FEB 2023
Team Canada goalkeeper Ann-Renee Desbiens celebrates with Ella Shelton.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
The Canadian women’s national team completed a comeback in the Rivalry Series to maintain bragging rights over the Americans. 

More importantly, they built momentum.

Blayre Turnbull scored twice and Ann-Renee Desbiens finished with 25 saves as Canada dominated the United States in a 5-0 win on Wednesday.

The victory clinched the Rivalry Series for Canada in the teams' final tune-up before the 2023 IIHF Women's World Championship. The Canadians initially trailed 3-0 in the seven-game series.

Turnbull's goals came 32 seconds apart in the second period, when the Canadians struck four times on their first five shots. With U.S. forward Jincy Dunne in the box for bodychecking, Turnbull tipped a shot by Emily Clark at 10:26 to make it 3-0. 

That tally chased starter Nicole Hensley from the net. The Nova Scotia native then made quick work of replacement Maddie Rooney. Turnbull scored again on her next shot, one-timing a pass by Laura Stacey in the slot.

"We got off to a slow start," Turnbull told TSN's Kenzie Lalonde. "We were on our heels a little bit in the first period and wanted to clean things up in the second period."

Wednesday's shutout marked Canada's first of the Americans since the 2019 Rivalry Series. It was also the largest margin of victory for Canada since a 7-0 win in a 2005 exhibition leading up to the 2006 Olympics. 

Stacey finished with three assists for the Canadians, who improved to 99-74-1 all-time against their North American neighbour. 

Desbiens stopped eight shots apiece in the first and second periods and nine in the third to secure the series' only shutout. She finished with a 2-1 record, earning both wins in the last two contests.

Not long after Turnbull made it 4-0, American forward Alex Carpenter nearly halted Canada's momentum. Denied by Desbiens at the right edge of the crease, Carpenter collected her own rebound and attempted a wraparound. Desbiens got across the net to deny the American for a second time on the left.

Moment's later, Victoria Bach converted on a partial breakaway to give the Canadians a five-goal lead with 7:26 remaining in the second.

Carpenter would have another chance early in the third period with a spin move in the low slot. Again, Desbiens would keep her off the scoresheet.

"It's always a battle between these two teams, and their goaltender shut the door tonight," said U.S. coach John Wroblewski said. "It's obviously not the way we wanted to close out the series, but we'll regroup and look ahead to April."

Ella Shelton opened the scoring 17:02 into the contest. After the Canadians failed to convert on a  rush, Hensley kicked the puck into the slot and Shelton slid the puck back under the goalie's pad.

"We were just playing aggressive," Shelton told Lalonde. "I thought I'd join the rush, get up with the action, stop at the net. Luckily the puck came to my stick and I was able to poke it in."

Two days after becoming the fifth player to reach 200 points with the Canadian women's team in a 5-1 win on Monday, Marie-Philip Poulin picked up another 3:41 into the second period. The Beauceville, Quebec native doubled her team's lead by beating Hensley glove-side with a wrist shot from the slot. 

The Rivalry Series returned this season after a two-year break due to COVID and 2022 Olympic preparations. Canada won the first, 2-1, in 2018-19. The Americans won the following season, 4-1.

The Americans took a 3-0 lead in the series when it opened in western North America in November. The Americans edged the Canadians 4-3 in a shootout on Nov. 15 in Kelowna, British Columbia; won 2-1 in Kamloops, British Columbia two nights later; and a 4-2 win before a record U.S. women's hockey record  14,551 in Seattle, Washington on Nov. 20.

But when the teams resumed play in mid-December, Canada closed the gap. They took a 3-2 win in Henderson, Nevada, followed by a 3-2 overtime triumph in Los Angeles, California.

Monday night in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, the Canadians squared it with a 5-1 victory. Brianne Jenner a goal and two assists, including one on the goal which put Poulin over the 200-point plateau. 

Kelly Pannek scored the lone goal for the Americans to make it 2-1 eight minutes into the third. Canada would go on to begin a stretch of eight unanswered over the remainder of the series.

The Americans' frustrations spilled over in the final 95 seconds, as Poulin and U.S defender Megan Keller exchanged words and shoves. Both were sent off-ice instead for roughing, and the home crowd serenaded Canada's captain with cheers of "Poulin! Poulin! Poulin!"

It's an energy likely to be seen again in just six weeks when the Women's World Championship gets underway April 5 in Brampton. Next time the teams meet, it will be on April 10 in preliminary-round action with much greater stakes.