U.S. edges Canada to reclaim women's world hockey gold

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Canadians make no excuses in falling to bitter rivals.

The look across Caroline Ouellette’s face was utter shock.

“We wanted to be proud of our effort and we don’t have that feeling, not at all,” Ouellette said as she stared at the floor after the United States beat Canada 3-2 in the gold-medal game of the women’s world championship.

“We are in our country and it is really hard.”

The Canadians got what they deserved and no one was arguing that. They didn’t play well, they didn’t play their game, they paid the price, and they knew it.

“We were out-chanced, out-shot and out-played,” continued Ouellette, who was playing in her 11th world championship. “It is a wakeup call. It was a lack of execution.”

“Obviously 16 shots is not enough to beat a good team,” said Team Canada coach Dan Church.

Hockey Canada will begin the process of assembling its women’s team for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games in a couple of weeks. By that time, the bitter taste of losing the only meaningful game the national women’s team played in the 2012-13 season will be behind them, and the focus will be on defending the Olympic title.

“We have to figure out why we were not ready to play tonight,” added Church. “I thought we were on our heels for the decision making. We were not thinking and moving at the same time.”

For all intent and purpose, the women’s world gold-medal game is a mid-term exam, while the final will be the Olympic gold-medal match.

U.S. better team

That said, the U.S., delivered a message. Its speed, youth and skill won the match – hands down.

“It shows we are going in the right direction,” said U.S. forward Amanda Kessel, who snapped a wrist shot past goaltender Shannon Szabados at 3:09 of the third period for the winner. “I felt our team had some jump. I don’t think we could have played any better.”

Canada opened the scoring, with Courtney Birchard ripping a shot at 9:50 of the first period for the only time the Canadians had the lead.

The U.S., took a 2-1 lead in the second, but Ouellette then tied it at 17:50 of the middle period, sending the rivals to the dressing room all squared up.

Kessel is the sister of Phil Kessel, who plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs. She was named the top U.S. college player a couple of weeks ago and she has a national collegiate title on her resume with the University of Minnesota.

She lived up to the billing as one of the top players in the world with a highlight reel goal in the third.

It was a year ago that the U.S. had a 4-3 lead on Canada late in the game of the 2012 final in Vermont. The Canadians won 5-4 on overtime, and reclaiming gold on Canadian soil was the goal the Americans have had since then.

“I feel it is like revenge,” said Kessel. “It gives us confidence and momentum for Sochi.”

“I can’t think of my year ending any better.”

Wickenheiser battled back issues

The 2013 tournament marked the first time Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser, who was playing in her 12th world tournament, failed to register a point in the world championship. Wickenheiser missed three games with back spasms and her status looking toward the Sochi Games will be much debated.

Wickenheiser knows there is a younger generation of players ready to push the veterans, but she said there are other issues that have to be addressed.

“I think the key is not about developing players. I think the key is collective puck movement and working as a unit of five, and understanding the game and how to make each other better on the ice as a unit,” she said.

“We have all the tools we need and we just have to put it together.”

The final marked the 15th straight time Canada and the U.S., have met for the world title, and the outcome kept with the pattern since 2010, where neither team has been able to string together consecutive wins. Canada beat the American 3-2 in a shootout during the preliminary round.

Alan Adams - CBC Sports

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