Team USA smothered Team Canada early and got a lucky bounce late to take a 2-1 win at the 4 Nations Cup Wednesday at Sasktel Centre.
With the threat of overtime looming during a 1-1 tie late in the third period, American forward Sydney Brodt deflected a Shannon Szabados blocker save rebound off her midsection and into the gaping net with 1:38 remaining for the awkward game-winning goal.
Team Canada head coach Perry Pearn thinks the game was decided a lot earlier than that.
“I just told the group in the dressing room, I don’t think we lost the game on the last goal, we lost the game on the first goal,” he said.
Canada appeared sluggish to start the game, following a fast-paced American attack around the ice before Hannah Brandt opened the scoring 1:18 into the game.
“We have a lot of young players in our room — and you think about this as one of the biggest rivalries in sport — I think some of them were a little bit in awe the first period,” Pearn said.
That nervousness was evident in the first period as the Canadians were outshot 16-4 in an opening frame that could have gotten away from them if it wasn’t for Szabados making timely saves throughout the night.
An energized Team Canada took to the ice to start the third period and were able to tie the game thanks to Loren Gabel, who took control of an errant wraparound attempt and fired the puck into the American net for her first career goal in Canadian colours.
“It was pretty awesome, especially against the U.S., ” Gabel said following the game. “We got a lot of energy from (the goal) and definitely brought it to them, but obviously couldn’t come out with the win.”
Even though it was Pearn’s first time coaching in a Canada-USA matchup, he said he expected a tough fight from the outset.
“You know every time you play them, it’s going to be a fine, fine line between winning and losing.”
As far as a game plan to stymie the Americans should they meet at Saturday’s gold medal game, Pearn thinks disrupting the American defence will be worthwhile.
“Against a good defence, I don’t care what level you’re playing, you’ve got to put pucks behind them,” he said.
Team Canada will now shift its attention to Friday’s game against Finland. With both teams knotted at one win and one loss each thus far in the tournament, it is a must-win game for the Canadians to reach Saturday’s gold medal game.
“Every game, whether it’s a win or a loss, it’s always a learning opportunity,” Szabados said after her 31-save performance. “I thought we got a lot better as (Tuesday’s) game went on.”
“Just use that momentum against Finland on Friday and whoever we end up playing the next day.”