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Team USA had won four consecutive games over Team Canada in the lead-up to the Sochi Olympics, but it was the Canadian side that prevailed on Wednesday as they won Pool A with a 3-2 victory over the Americans.
Megan Agosta-Marciano celebrated her 27th birthday by scoring twice for the Canadians, and Hayley Wickenheiser had a goal and assist in the game. Hilary Knight picked up a power play goal on a deflection in the second period, and Anne Schleper scored with just over a minute remaining as the Americans attempted a furious comeback.
The first period was a frame largely dominated by the Canadians, but neither team was able to get on the board. The US continually turned the puck over in their own end, and really couldn't generate many scoring chances in the offensive zone either. It was reminiscent of their struggles in the first moments of their game against Switzerland on Monday, but it didn't end up costing them in the goal column.
That's because the Americans were able to kill off two Canadian power plays, and only allowed one shot on goal in those four minutes of play. Team Canada had difficulty moving the puck around the zone, and the American forwards kept jumping in on plays and breaking up passes. It was that kind of defense that allowed the game to remain tied at 0-0 after one.
In the second period, the game started to open up a bit, and both teams began getting some good chances. On an early power play for Team Canada, Knight got control of the puck at the blue line with a nifty move, and pushed it up to Kelli Stack. She raced up ice, but was stopped on her breakaway attempt by goaltender Charline Labonte, and the game remained scoreless.
On another power play late in the period, the US was finally able to get on the board. After Labonte stopped an initial shot, the Americans cycled the puck around the ice to get the Canadian defense moving, and eventually Alex Carpenter fired a shot from the high slot. Knight managed to get a stick blade on it and redirected it past Labonte to give the US a 1-0 lead.
The Americans got a couple more chances as the period drew to a close, with Alex Coyne nearly finding Amanda Kessel with a cross-ice pass on a 2-on-1 play. Fortunately for Canada, Tara Watchorn was there to break it up and keep the deficit at one. Gigi Marvin also got a great chance in close, but Labonte was able to stop it to send the Canadians into the second intermission only trailing by one goal.
When the third period began, all of the American momentum was gone, and Canada took full advantage. On an early power play, Wickenheiser grabbed a rebound from a deflected shot, and she made a nifty back-handed pass across the ice to Agosta-Marciano, who fired it past Jessie Vetter to tie the game at 1-1.
Just a few moments later, the Canadians took the lead on a controversial call. On a shot from Wickenheiser that Vetter had trouble corraling, the referee blew the whistle just before the puck crossed the goal line. After conferring for a moment, the officials on the ice ruled the play a goal, and according to IIHF rules, it was not a reviewable play, and therefore the Canadians got the 2-1 lead despite American protests.
Just after the US had killed off a penalty, the Canadians were able to get back on the board. Knight lost the puck in the offensive zone, and Marvin was caught flat-footed at the blue line. Agosta-Marciano took off like a shot up the ice, and she was able to beat Vetter on the breakaway to score her second goal of the game, giving her team a commanding 3-1 lead.
The US finally started to show some push on the offensive side of things after Vetter had been pulled for a sixth attacker late in the game, and with a little over a minute left, they were able to cut the deficit to one. Meghan Bozek was stopped on a shot in front by Labonte, but the puck drifted back into the slot, and Schleper was there to clean up the mess, firing a shot off of traffic that beat Labonte and made it a 3-2 game.
That was as close as the Americans could get however, as they couldn't take advantage of a late too-many-men penalty against the Canadians, and the defending Olympic champions escaped with a narrow victory.
The two teams both have made it through to the semi-finals, with the US likely facing a game against Team Finland on Monday.