The U.S. women’s hockey team beat Canada for the first time in the run up to the Olympics, hours after Canada’s coach resigned Thursday.
Five different Americans scored in a 5-1 victory in Calgary, Alberta. The world champion U.S. improved to 1-3 against the three-time reigning Olympic champion with three more games to go against its rival.
“It was one good test,” U.S. coach Katey Stone said. “We’re certainly a much better team than we were in November. The hard work that we’ve been putting in, in training camp, is starting to pay off a little bit.”
Alex Carpenter, Brianna Decker, Hilary Knight, Meghan Duggan and Megan Bozek scored. No. 1 goalie Jessie Vetter stopped 15 of 16 shots.
The U.S. led 1-0 after Carpenter’s goal but opened it up in the second, outshooting Canada 12-5 with Decker’s tally, and piled on the final three goals in the final 20 minutes. They did it against Canada’s top goalie, Shannon Szabados, who stopped 24 of 28 shots.
“The second and third period, it was a dominating effort,” Stone said. “If anything, it’s going to make these kids believe they can do it all the time.”
Canada head coach Dan Church resigned earlier in the day for “personal reasons,” adding he felt others lacked confidence in his coaching.
The team had a tough time keeping its focus on the ice Thursday night, co-interim coach Danielle Goyette said.
“It was an emotional day,” Canadian forward Caroline Ouellette said, according to The Canadian Press. “A lot of different feelings around the team.
“I suspect that’s always the case when a head coach steps down in the NHL. It’s just never happened to us. I think we have some people who are feeling mixed emotions.”
Canada’s stalwart, Hayley Wickenheiser, suffered a lower-body injury in her second shift and sat out the final two periods. The team is hopeful it’s a day-to-day injury for the greatest player in Olympic women’s hockey history.
The win provided a boost for the U.S., which had not only lost to Canada three times, but also 3-1 to Finland in the Four Nations Cup on Nov. 8. It marked its first regulation loss ever to a nation other then Canada at an Olympics, World Championships or Four Nations Cup.
“Maybe we were cruising a little bit having three successful games against them,” Ouellette said, according to The Canadian Press. “They took what made us successful in the past games and shoved it at us. They were better on the forecheck and quicker on loose pucks.”
The teams will next play Dec. 20 in Grand Forks, N.D.
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