LOS ANGELES — Youth and several opportune bounces have so far provided the United States women’s national hockey team the edge in winning the first two games of its Rivalry Series against a more experienced Canadian opponent.
Both coaches, however, can appreciate how quickly the tables can turn after Gabbie Hughes scored twice, leading the Americans to a 5-2 win Saturday.
“A lot of things have to work out for us right now to get the results we are getting, and it really does start with a defensive mentality to withstand Canada’s attack,” U.S. coach John Wroblewski said. “The skill level is sort of what I would call equal across the board. So the one thing we can get is having some of our youthful exuberance to take place.”
It’s working so far for an American team that features 10 college players. They include Wisconsin’s Britta Curl, who scored the go-ahead goal, and Ohio State’s Hannah Bilka, who also scored, as the U.S. followed up its series-opening 3-1 win at Tempe, Arizona, on Wednesday.
Otherwise, mainstays Alex Carpenter had a goal and assist, Hilary Knight set up two goals and two-time Olympian Nicole Hensley stopped 23 shots for the defending world champions.
Laura Stacey and Jamie Lee Rattray scored, and Kristen Campbell stopped 19 shots for Canada, which has yet to hold a lead in a seven-game series which shifts to Canada. The teams next meet in in Kitchener, Ontario, on Dec. 14.
Team Canada coach Troy Ryan credited the Americans for winning through youth, while noting his more experienced roster has a history of slow starts. Last year, the Canadians lost the first three games before winning four straight to clinch the series.
Some of that, Ryan said, has to do with his team coming off a long layoff as opposed to the American collegians having already begun their seasons. A more worrisome issue for Ryan is having his players take the ice and expect immediate success without putting in the effort.
“They think they can pick up where they left off,” Ryan said. “We never really established a forecheck at all in these two games. And if they’re not able to establish a forecheck, you’re not making it difficult enough to play against.”
Lazy penalties also cost the Canadians, who gave up two power-play goals.
The clincher came 3:19 into the third period, when Abbey Murphy’s shot from the left point deflected in off Hughes to put the Americans up 4-2. It came 13 seconds after Canada’s Sarah Fillier was penalized for roughing, and 42 seconds after Rattray scored.
“The timing of the goal couldn’t have been better,” Hughes said. “We need that to really change the momentum back in our direction.”
The Americans have won three straight against their cross-border rivals dating to a 6-3 win in the gold-medal game of the women’s world championships in April. The Rivalry Series is a lead up to the world championships, which will be held in Utica, New York, from April 3-14.
Wisconsin sophomore Laila Edwards became the first Black player to appear in a game for the U.S. women’s national hockey team.
Canadian defender Erin Ambrose did not return after hurting her right leg in the second period. Ryan was awaiting a medical update but said he didn’t believe the injury was anything long term.