ADLER, Russia - Round one goes to Canada, but fortunately for the United States, it wasn't in the medal round.
In another close battle, Canada beat the U.S. 3-2 Wednesday in the Sochi Winter Olympics women's ice hockey pool play at the Shayba Rink in Olympic Park.
In a rivalry matchup of two teams with 2-0 records, the Canadians erased a 1-0 deficit by scoring three unanswered goals in the third period. Forward Meghan Agosta netted two of them on her birthday, and captain Hayley Wickenheiser notched the other on a play that was reviewed, with the verdict being that the goal stood.
U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter makes a glove save as Canada's Hayley Wickenheiser charges the net in Wednesday's game.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
The game remained scoreless until Hilary Knight put the U.S. on the board with a goal late in the second period. Canada then rallied with three straight in the third, including two during the first four minutes of the stanza. The U.S. pulled to within a goal when Anne Schleper found the back of the net with 1:05 left in the game, and with starting goalie Jessie Vetter on the bench. With their goalie off the ice, the Americans had two extra attackers during the final 30 seconds of regulation after the Canadians were penalized for too many players on the ice, but were unable to come up with a tying goal to force overtime.
"It was another typical Canada-U.S. hockey game," Canadian head coach Kevin Dineen said at the post-game press conference. "We expected nothing else out of that one."
"It was just what I expected," added U.S. head coach Katey Stone. "It was exciting; it was good for the fans, a lot of up-and-down action. I was a little indifferent about our team. Our defensive support in our own end was not typically like it's been the last couple of months, and we have to establish our forecheck."
The U.S. defeated Canada the last three times the teams met during a run up to the Olympics, and held the advantage in play during the first two periods of this game. The U.S. owned a 24-19 edge in shots on goal and a 1-0 lead heading into the final 20 minutes of action. Knight gave the Americans their lead when she tipped a shot past Canadian goalie Charline LaBonte at the 37:34 mark of the game, with assists going to Alex Carpenter and Schleper. The goal came on a power play.
The Canadians also got their first goal on a power play, with Agosta scoring 2:21 into the third period to tie the game at 1-1 with Wickenheiser assisting.
Wickenheiser then got the go-ahead goal 1:33 later on a play where Vetter thought she had the puck smothered. Vetter, as well as Stone, both said they heard a whistle prior to the goal being called. The play was reviewed, and the ruling resulted in a 2-1 lead for Canada.
"I did hear the whistle before the puck went in, but there was plenty of time left," Stone said. "I'm not going to hang my hat on that one. I think we could have played better."
Agosta appeared to put the contest out of reach by notching her second of the game with 5:05 left on the clock. Down by two goals late, the U.S. cut the gap to 3-2 on Schleper's goal, which was set up by Brianna Decker and Jocelyne Lamoureux.
The score remained that way when the buzzer sounded, and Canada skated off the ice with a 3-0 record after the conclusion of their pool play round. After being outshot during the first two periods, Canada had a dominating 12-3 edge in shots on goal in the third.
"It was her birthday today," Dineen said of Agosta. "That was a heck of a present. The puck seems to find her, and she's a special player for us."
The U.S. now stands with a 2-1 record. The win was the 18th straight for the Canadian women in Olympic play.
Both teams have the next four days off from competition before moving into the semifinal playoff round on Monday.