In the latest installment of the famed USA-Canada rivalry, Team USA defended its Four Nations title with a 5-3 win in the championship game. While Canada is 11-6 in Four Nations title games, the U.S. is now 4-1 in the last five.
Hilary Knight led the USA with two goals, while Alex Rigsby made 13 saves for the gold. Canada's Emerance Maschmeyer stopped 24 pucks and captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice.
Tara Watchorn, Jenn Wakefield, and Jamie Lee Rattray did not play for Canada. Both Watchorn and Rattray played in the previous match, but Wakefield did not.
It took Canada less than four minutes to take the lead, thanks to Poulin. The captain converted a pass from Natalie Spooner for the 1-0 lead. Canada's quick dominance pressures the US, but it didn't take long for the Americans to recover. Almost 17 minutes into the first, Emily Pfalzer tied the game on a tricky rebound shot. Just 1:19 later Hilary Knight gave USA the lead.
The teams played to a scoreless second, but Canada tied it in the third frame on a laser from Laura Stacey. But the USA took over just a minute later when Brianna Decker took a shot from the top of the slot for the 3-2 advantage, after a zone entry that was only questionably just onside. Then, Knight darted towards the crease and slid across to beat Maschmeyer glove side for the 4-2 lead. Kelli Stack added the insurance goal less than 2 minutes later later.
Canada, which spent much of the game chasing after USA's forwards, cut the score to 5-3 with 40 seconds left and their goaltender pulled. Poulin scored the extra-attacker tally, but it was too little too late for Team Canada.
USA's puck possession: Team USA started slowly, but once they settled into a rhythm, it was almost over. The American forwards held onto the puck and continued creating chances, especially in transition, which left Canada chasing USA. At one point, Canada's players were visibly exhausted and had a hard time keeping pace.
Hilary Knight: Knight had a great game -- as always -- for the U.S. Her second goal against Maschmeyer was particularly impressive. Knight skated in from the left faceoff circle and swept towards the crease and across the top of the crease and turned as she went, slipping the puck behind an outstretched Maschmeyer. This is Knight's first on-ice action this fall as she has yet to play for her NWHL team, the Boston Pride, this season after being sidelined with an injury. However, it looks like Knight hasn't missed a beat.
Canada's top line and Marie-Philip Poulin: Canada's top line featured Rebecca Johnston, Marie-Philip Poulin, and Natalie Spooner. Despite the loss, Canada's top line was one of the most lethal on the ice. Poulin's multi-goal performances have become habitual; very few athletes are so individually dominant in their sport.
Emerance Maschmeyer: Maschmeyer played well and the difference in the game became strong individual efforts after defensive lapses by Canada. With better defense in front of her, this would have been a tight game. Her counterpart at the other end, Alex Rigsby, only faced 16 shots.
Close games: In typical fashion, recent USA-Canada games have been close until the very end. Canada beat the USA by a score of 3-2 yesterday, and Team USA looked like they were dragging a bit towards the end. This time, it was time for the USA to get some jump in their step in the third and wear their opponents down. Unfortunately for Canada, the second of the two tilts was for the medal.
(Photo credit: USA Hockey/Twitter)