The other contests in “The Time Is Now Tour” between USA women’s hockey and Canada were pretty lopsided and not very close. The previous winner always had a comfortable margin of at least a couple goals. Then the script flipped, and they needed overtime to decide things.
“I think no matter what, you’re always looking at a back-and-forth hockey game, whether it’s sometimes the score or sometimes in general with the play,” said Canada head coach Laura Schuler. “I thought tonight was definitely, probably more indicative of how our two teams can play.”
Unfortunately for Team USA, they came out on the losing side of the 2-1 game, which ended just 37 seconds into overtime on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center in the fourth Tour meeting between the two teams.
Brianne Jenner sniped a shot from the left circle for the overtime winner, beating Andover’s Maddie Rooney in net for USA. Rebecca Johnston got the assist.
It was the lone shot on goal in the 3 on 3 overtime session.
“In OT, they just had their chance, and they capitalized,” Rooney said.
The loss for USA snapped a four-game winning streak this fall; USA is 3-2 against Canada this year. It’s the fifth of eight games between U.S. and Canada ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games and fourth matchup of The Time Is Now tour.
USA got their scoring chances and put pucks on net throughout the first two periods, but in a 1-1 game headed to the third period, they came out a bit flat. USA registered just five shots on goal in the third, allowing Canada to catch up in that department.
“They did some good things out there today, obviously the score is not what we want,” said USA coach Robb Stauber, a former goalie coach at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. “I suspect that tonight when we look at [the tape], we’re going to say, ‘you know, what? Some of the things we focused on we did well, but we just, we didn’t score enough.’
“Especially going into the third period, it’s a 1-1 game, we only got five shots on goal.”
USA outshot Canada 10-4 in the first and 13-9 in the second before getting outshot 12-5 in the third. Rooney came up with save after save on rebounds and up close in the third, including holding off the opponent during three third-period penalty kills.
She made 24 saves in the game.
Both teams scored in the second period, with USA taking the 1-0 lead just 1:20 into it on a delayed penalty call to Canada after USA was already skating with the man advantage. Megan Keller, of Farmington, Mich., took a shot from the left circle which found its way into the net. Massachusetts native Alex Carpenter was credited with the assist after a scoring change initially gave her the goal.
Canada evened the score with 2:08 remaining in the period. Marie-Philip Poulin got the goal when she crashed the net and found a juicy rebound. Her teammate Meghan Agosta made the play happen when she took the puck into the zone, skated around the defender and put the puck on net, something Canada didn’t do too often through the first 40 minutes of play.
Each team had five power-play chances, with Canada going 0 for 5 while USA was 1 for 5.
Eleven of USA’s first 17 shots came while on the power play.
Rooney credited her Canadian counterpart in goaltender Shannon Szabados for playing well, too.
“I think some of those chances that we just couldn’t capitalize on,” Rooney said. “But we’ll get them next time.”
The State of Hockey is well-represented on the roster with seven Minnesota-born players and seven who have played for the Gophers. Rooney and team-newcomer Sidney Morin (Minnetonka) have both played at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Five players have played for the independent professional women’s hockey team, the Minnesota Whitecaps.
Forward Lee Stecklein (Roseville) is one of the veterans on the team and a former Gopher. She was also part of Team USA in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Still, there’s something to be said about skating in front of the hometown crowd.
“Playing at the X, it’s an incredible experience,” Stecklein said. “To see everyone come out and support this team, so many familiar faces… it doesn’t get old.”
The two teams head to Winnipeg for their next meeting on Dec. 5. Then wrap up with games in San Jose and Edmonton on Dec. 15 and 17. They’re still working on things leading up to the Olympics, plus they need to trim the rosters, too.
For the USA players, history probably isn’t far from their minds.
The very first gold medal awarded in women’s hockey came 20 years ago, with the gold going to either U.S. or Canada in every Olympic Games since. Team USA is the four-time defending world champion, winning seven of the last eight International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships.
However, Olympic gold has been the elusive medal for Team USA. They won at the 1998 games in Nagano – the first time women’s hockey was an Olympic sport – but have three silver and one bronze medal since then, including finishing as the runner-up to Canada in the last two Olympics. Canada beat USA 3-2 in overtime in the 2014 gold-medal game in Sochi.
“I think for us, it’s not necessarily about the 20 years,” Stauber said. “But more about ‘it’s time.’ We’ve got to bring home a gold medal, but you do it one game at a time. This game tonight is a chance for us to look at our game.”