Canada Holds off USA in Wild Finish for Women's Olympic Hockey 2018 Win

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2018

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 15:  Laura Fortino #8 of Canada handles the puck against Danielle Cameranesi #24 of the United States during the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day six of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre on February 15, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In perhaps the best Olympic rivalry this side of Michael Phelps against Chad le Clos, Canada beat the United States 2-1 in a group-stage matchup in the 2018 women's hockey tournament, which aired live Wednesday night in the United States.

Canada received second-period goals from Meghan Agosta and Sarah Nurse, which was enough of a cushion for goaltender Genevieve Lacasse. In her first start of the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Lacasse proved to be the difference as she turned away all but one—Kendall Coyne's wrister in the opening minute of the third periodof the Americans' 45 shots on goal.

The Americans unleashed a number of desperation shots in the closing seconds, but Lacasse blocked them all to preserve the heart-pounding win.

Both sides were 2-0 entering this much-anticipated showdown in what was likely a medal-round preview given the history between the two sides.

Gary D'Amato of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted the 2006 Games were the only time the Americans and Canadians didn't play for gold at a major tournament since the start of the IIHF Women's World Championship in 1990 and the start of women's hockey in the Olympics in 1998.

Team USA is the four-time defending world champions, but Canada is seeking a fifth straight Olympic gold.

"It's just a preliminary round game in the Olympic tournament Thursday, but it's like having Ali and Frazier fight on the undercard when everybody knows they're going to meet again in the main event," D'Amato wrote.

The tension at the end was far more fitting of a championship bout than an undercard matchup.

The United States drew a penalty with just more than three minutes remaining and then pulled its goaltender down the stretch to create an additional advantage. Still, it couldn't find a way to get the puck past Lacasse a second time, which was fitting given how the game played out.

The Americans won plenty of races to the puck to maintain possession and consistently create offensive opportunities in the attacking zone, leading to a 45-23 advantage in shots on goal, per NBC Olympics.

However, Lacasse was brilliant in the face of the building pressure and outshined her counterpart, 20-year-old Maddie Rooney.

It looked as if the United States would answer after falling behind 2-0, as Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson was given a penalty shot when Canadian defenders covered the puck in the crease. Lacasse had other ideas, however, and blocked her backhanded attempt. She then stood strong against a power play less than a minute later.

Dan Wolken of USA Today reflected on the Americans' missed scoring chances:

While Lacasse was largely the story, Canada needed multiple head-turning efforts to beat Rooney on the other end.

Agosta buried a point-blank shot from the slot on a power play after Natalie Spooner fed her with a perfectly placed no-look backhanded assist through American defenders. Ian McLaren of the Score summarized the beautiful dish:

Nurse then took things into her own hands and flicked a wrister into the top shelf for the second goal and additional breathing room for Lacasse. While replays showed Canada may have been offside before the goal, the United States did not challenge the ruling.

The Americans did benefit from the officiating in the third period, though, when Haley Irwin's goal was overturned because she kicked it. The ruling maintained the drama in the contest after Coyne dashed through Canada's defense and beat Lacasse through the five-hole to trim the deficit to one:

Ultimately, Coyne was the only one who bested the Canadian goaltender, leading to the United States' first loss of these Olympics.

Luckily for the Red, White and Blue, it was just a preliminary-round game in Group A.

NBC Chicago noted both sides already clinched their spots in the semifinals but acknowledged the Americans "will be lined up to have a tougher semi-final matchup, as they will take on the winner of a game between Switzerland and either the Olympic Athletes from Russia or Finland" thanks to this loss.

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