U.S., Canada set up Four Nations Cup final showdown

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WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — The United States has earned yet another game against Canada, and the Americans really like how they’re playing right now.

Kacey Bellamy scored on a power-play at 4:23 of the first period and the United States beat Sweden 5-0 on Friday night to reach the championship of the Four Nations Cup.

The Americans will play Canada on Sunday looking for their eighth overall title in this tournament and third straight. So far this fall, the United States has won two of the first three games against its biggest rivals in women’s hockey, including a 4-2 win Wednesday night in the round-robin portion of this event.

“We know who they are and they know who we are, and it’s very likely another real good hockey game,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said about playing Canada for the fourth time as part of their pre-Olympic exhibition tour.

The U.S. squad has won three games in four nights scoring 17 goals and allowing only four.

“Obviously, it’s always great to win a game and win three in a row is the ultimate goal, but I’m just happy with the way we’re playing,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said. “I think all the games have been different, a lot of special teams. We’ve done a great job managing our energy, managing our intensity, the way that we want to play. Sticking to dictating the game on our end and just happy with where we’re at right now.”

Kendall Coyne scored two goals in the second. Hannah Brandt had a goal and an assist, and Gigi Marvin had a goal.

This was the 18th game between the United States and Sweden in this event, and the Americans remain undefeated with their seventh shutout in the last nine games between the teams.

They jumped on Sweden’s first penalty when Olivia Carlsson went to the box for high-sticking, needing just 29 seconds to score.

Bellamy skated across the slot in front of the crease and pounced on a rebound of Hilary Knight‘s shot to beat goalie Sara Grahn with a backhander.

Sweden killed off its other two penalties of the period, and goalie Nicole Hensley made a nice stop on a short-handed breakaway attempt by Lisa Johansson at 18:18 of the first. That may have been the biggest of the nine shots Hensley faced.

“It’s critical,” Stauber said. “Anytime a game’s 1-nothing, that’s a game-changing save, and she came up big and had some other real good saves. And that’s not easy on a given night when you only face nine shots on goal. That’s not easy to stay in something like that. So she was mentally focused … She didn’t give any ground.”

Coyne made it 2-0 with her second goal in three games in this tournament 1:35 into the second. Then Coyne made it 3-0 at 4:56, and Brandt scored from the slot midway through the second.

Canada beat Finland 4-0 to advance to the title game. Finland took three of the first four shots, but Brianne Jenner scored on the power play at 13:27 of the 1st for a lead the Canadians never lost.

Canada went 2 of 6 with the advantage while killing all seven penalties. Marie-Philip Poulin had a goal and an assist, and Meghan Agosta added two assists.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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