U.S. wins shot battle against Canada, but loses one that matters — goals
If nothing else, the U.S. women’s hockey team learned a valuable lesson from its Tuesday’s tough loss to rival Canada on Tuesday.
Quantity does not necessarily mean quality.
The Americans controlled the play for much of the game and continually peppered the Canadian goal with shots but could not generate enough strong chances in a 4-2 defeat at Wukesong Sports Centre.
“Shots don’t win games, goals do,” U.S. coach Joel Johnson said. “When we shoot the puck and it gets blocked, it takes away some offensive momentum and actually creates momentum for them.”
These teams are unquestionably the superpowers of their sport, taking turns winning every world championship and Olympic gold medal over the last three decades. Their shared history includes a long list of close games and overtime thrillers.
It didn’t seem to matter that Tuesday was merely the final day of group play at the Beijing Games, with both teams assured of advancing.
Look no further than the women’s Olympic hockey tournament to see how funding and commitment are creating a playing field of haves and have-nots.
Anytime they meet, Canadian forward Sarah Nurse said, there is “a lot of pride on the line. And definitely a lot of hostility out there.”
From the start, the U.S. began piling up time in the offensive zone, prompting all those chances on the way to a whopping 53-27 advantage in shots for the day.
Though Canada took a 1-0 lead into the locker room after the first period, the U.S. kept pressuring and answered in the second. Dani Cameranesi scored off her own rebound and Alex Carpenter followed soon after with a backhander for a 2-1 lead.
“You just have to keep going,” forward Amanda Kessel said. “That sometimes happens.”
But scoring bursts go both ways, and Canada’s subsequent three goals proved to be the decisive point in the game. Brianne Jenner and Jamie Lee Rattray started things off with a pair of quick goals. Then the U.S. gave up a short-handed breakaway, committed a desperation penalty and watched Marie-Philip Poulin score on a penalty shot.
In the space of less than six minutes, Canada (4-0) had not only retaken the lead but opened up a 4-2 cushion.
“You never want to give up that many goals.” U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney said. “Obviously, it was a tough stretch. We had a little bit of a defensive breakdown and they capitalized on it.”
The third period settled into a familiar pattern, with the U.S. too often firing shots from the perimeter against a defense that packed around the goal. Time and again, Canadian defender Jocelyne Larocque and her teammates threw themselves in front of the puck.
“As a goalie you can appreciate it because you know how much those shots can hurt,” Canadian goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said. “And, trust me, they have a few bruises on them.”
Even when the Americans did break loose for open attempts, Desbiens found an answer, sprawling, stretching, finishing with 51 saves. Power plays came and went with the U.S. unable to take advantage.
The U.S. women’s hockey team has the smarts to beat the Russian Olympic Committee team 5-0. The loss of Brianna Decker is mitigated by exceptional depth.
“Obviously our goalie came up big for us,” Canadian forward Natalie Spooner said. “And our [penalty-killing] was stellar.”
Afterward, Johnson talked about getting back to work with his team, watching video to identify defensive miscues and find new angles for the offensive attack. The U.S. (3-1) needs to shore up its penalty killing, which has given up too many goals.
Quarterfinal play begins Friday and, if three decades of history is any indication, these teams are likely to meet again over the next week or so.
“I don’t think we really get too frustrated,” Carpenter said. “I think we’re just going to take a look at it and, you know, work on those finer details.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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