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Canada gets back-to-back wins over U.S. in pre-Olympic hockey series

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WINNIPEG (AP) — Even after stopping 32 shots in a 2-0 shutout over the U.S. on Tuesday night, Canadian goaltender Genevieve Lacasse wasn’t about to take all the credit.

Lacasse led Canada in the pre-Olympic exhibition win, but said her teammates made the busy night easier.

“We kept them to the outside, and then any rebound in front of the net that I let out, our (defense) boxed out and our forwards got the puck out and it was just perfect,” she said.

Jillian Saulnier scored the game’s first goal with 3:10 left in the third period on a backhand shot past American goalie Alex Rigsby. Laura Fortino added an empty-netter with 44 seconds remaining.

Rigsby made 19 saves in the sixth of eight games between the rivals before the Olympics. The series is tied 3-3.

Canada was 0-for-3 on the power play, and the Americans went 0-for-5 in front of a crowd estimated at more than 11,000 at Bell MTS Place.

“You have to score on the power play, there’s just no two ways about it,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said. “We had some looks and good chances.”

Saulnier called her goal a “full-line” effort, from Brianne Jenner getting the puck in deep and Jennifer Wakefield battling for it with a defender along the boards.

“(The puck) ended up popping out to me and I was lucky to get around the defenseman and back it in with my backhand there,” she said.

The Americans led shots on goal 13-7 after the first period and then the pace and physicality picked up in the second, with some roughing and body-checking calls.

American winger Kendall Coyne challenged Lacasse twice, making her whip her glove to grab the puck. Coyne then made a slick move to get around Manitoba defender Halli Krzyzaniak and Lacasse turned aside the shot.

Shots on goal favored the Americans 25-15 after the second.

“We had great chances, we outshot them, but obviously that’s not going to be good enough to win,” Coyne said. “We’ve just got to figure out how to get one by whatever goalie’s in the net that night.”

Canada won 2-1 in overtime on Sunday before a crowd of 9,000 in St. Paul, Minn. Both teams are carrying 26 players before the cut to 23 for the Olympic roster on Jan. 1.

The teams face off again Dec. 15 in San Jose, Calif., followed by the final exhibition Dec. 17 in Edmonton.

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Canada in control of hockey rivalry going into Olympics

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Four years ago, the U.S. women’s hockey team rode a four-game winning streak over rival Canada into the Olympics, then lost both games in Sochi, including a gut-wrenching overtime final.

This time, Canada goes into the Winter Games having won four straight.

The Canadians beat the Americans 2-1 in overtime in Edmonton on Sunday night, taking their pre-Olympic series 5-3 overall.

“I don’t think it was our best performance,” Canada coach Laura Schuler said. “There’s still more work to do.”

The Canadians were led by their stalwarts — captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in regulation, Sochi gold medalist Jennifer Wakefield scored 26 seconds into overtime and longtime goalie Shannon Szabados stopped 34 of 35 shots.

Hilary Knight netted the U.S. goal, with Maddie Rooney making 24 saves.

“The goal for us is to be hitting on all cylinders in February,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.

The U.S. appeared to be in that kind of form until about two weeks ago.

Before this losing streak, the U.S. had a 12-4 record against Canada since the start of 2015, including taking the last three world championship finals.

At one point, the U.S. won six straight games over a 12-month stretch, its longest streak over Canada since it famously won eight straight going into the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics then lost the gold-medal game.

Canada also beat the U.S. in their last four meetings before the 2006 Olympics and five straight going into the 2010 Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic team will be announced Jan. 1. The national-team roster is at 25 players (22 skaters, three goalies), but the Olympic roster is 23 (20 skaters, three goalies).

“Can’t live in the past, can’t live in the future, so tonight we were worried about this game,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said, according to the Canadian Press. “We weren’t looking ahead to February.”

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Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in a Nov. 9 practice fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since the fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October.

Chen is the only undefeated male singles skater this season.

Hanyu won four straight national titles before missing last season’s event with the flu.

He was still named to Japan’s team for worlds, where he won his second title in four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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