KAMLOOPS, B.C. – Canada’s Brianne Jenner is making a habit of scoring big goals against the United States.
Nine months after kickstarting her country’s memorable comeback victory in the gold-medal game at the Sochi Olympics, Jenner had the only goal of the shootout Saturday as Canada defeated the U.S. 3-2 in the final of the Four Nations Cup women’s hockey tournament.
After an exciting 4-on-4 overtime that included power plays and plenty of chances for both teams, Jenner roofed a backhand in the second round of the shootout before Genevieve Lacasse sealed it with saves on Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight.
“It’s always extremely intense,” said Jenner. “We take every game against them really seriously. They’re our rivals and we don’t want to drop a game to them. To see it go to shootout doesn’t surprise me.”
The game marked the first final between the two squads since Canada’s dramatic 3-2 come-from-behind overtime victory at the Games in February, and came on the heels of another 3-2 win in round-robin play on Wednesday.
“I guess it’s becoming a typical Canada-U.S. game in women’s hockey — just a real exciting game,” said Canadian head coach Doug Derraugh. “A real tough, hard-fought game. Back and forth, both teams had great chances. What more can you ask for?
“The players were phenomenal. It was a real energetic, passionate group.”
Jennifer Wakefield scored twice in regulation for Canada, while Lacasse stopped 33 shots through 80 minutes of action.
Knight and Decker replied for the U.S., which got 26 saves from Molly Schaus.
“What a hell of a game. What an awesome thing for women’s hockey,” said U.S. head coach Ken Klee. “It was a fantastic hockey game. Both teams played well, both teams had chances, both teams moved. It was just an awesome hockey game.
“There’s some disappointment. Losing’s no fun and we’re not satisfied with it but we played our hearts out. At the end if you play your hearts out you have nothing to hang your head about.”
Canada has now won the Four Nations Cup a total of 14 times — including last year’s event in Lake Placid, N.Y. — while the U.S. owns the other five titles.
“I’m really proud of the group and what we accomplished here. This was our goal,” said Canadian captain Haley Irwin. “We got better each game and I think there’s a lot we can take from this.
“It’s a bounce here, a bounce there and you just have to make sure you’re leaving everything out there.”
The two giants of the women’s game brought vastly different rosters to Kamloops than the ones that took to the ice in Russia for the Olympics as both programs look to develop younger players with an eye towards the 2015 women’s world hockey championship and beyond. Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford, Caroline Ouellette and Gillian Apps were among the veterans that didn’t take part in the tournament for the Canadians, while 11 Olympians stayed home for the American team.
But the new faces didn’t lessen the importance or intensity of the final at the sold out Interior Savings Centre.
Tied 2-2 after two periods, the U.S. came close to taking the lead three minutes into the third when captain Alex Carpenter fired a shot off the post behind Lacasse that stayed out.
Canada looked to have grabbed a 3-2 edge of its own at 9:07 when Natalie Spooner buried a rebound, but the play had already been whistled dead on a delayed penalty.
Canada’s Bailey Bram then had other great chance with under two minutes to go off a scramble in front as her shot from the side of the net slid through Schaus and just wide of the opposite post.
The hosts then had another opportunity when Irwin was hauled down by Megan Bozek with 25 seconds left in regulation, but they were unable to capitalize in the dying seconds of regulation or early in the extra period.
Down 1-0 after the first, the Americans tied the game just 50 seconds into the second when Decker moved down the right side and fired a shot that snuck inside Lacasse’s post for her second goal of the tournament.
“Every time we play the Canadians it’s going to be a one-goal differential,” said Decker. “It didn’t go in our favour tonight (but) we’re learning from it.
“Coach just said there’s no such thing as moral victories, but it’s a learning experience.”
Knight then gave the U.S. its first lead at 9:48 on a breakaway with her third goal at tournament after jumping on a bad turnover by Jocelyne Larocque.
Canada was awarded a penalty shot with just over four minutes left in the second when Jillian Saulnier was brought down on a short-handed breakaway, but she lost control of the puck at the critical moment of her showdown with Schaus and didn’t even get an effort on target.
Wakefield finally got the goal Canada desperately craved when she snapped home her second of the night and third overall after taking a pass from Spooner from the corner with 2:10 left in the period to send the teams to the locker-rooms tied 2-2 after 40 minutes.
Canada opened the scoring at 15:46 of a physical and fast-paced first period on the power play when Tara Watchorn blasted a high one-timer from the point that Wakefield tipped past Schaus.
The U.S. players and Klee protested that the goal should have been disallowed because Wakefield’s stick was above the crossbar — even pointing at the big screen above the ice surface — but the call on the ice stood. There is no video review at the tournament.
“We build it up to be such a rivalry. It’s two great teams here,” said a dejected Carpenter. “We look forward to getting better every day, so every time we step out there against the best in the world it’s amazing.”
In the third-place game earlier Saturday, Sweden scored with less than four minutes to go in regulation against Finland before winning 2-1 in overtime.
Jenni Asserholt scored exactly nine minutes into overtime for Sweden after Emma Nordin tied the game with 3:33 left in the third period. The goals were the first two of the tournament for the Swedes, who got 27 saves from Kim Martin Hasson.
Michelle Karvinen scored in the second and Eveliina Suonpaa made 14 stops for Finland, which didn’t allow a shot against in the first period.
Notes: Jamie Lee Rattray, who missed Canada’s game against Finland on Friday, was back in the lineup against the U.S. … The women’s world hockey championship is set for March 28 to April 4 in Malmo, Sweden. … Saturday’s attendance for the gold-medal game was 5,816.