As the puck dropped for Team USA's first game at the 2017 IIHF Women's World Championship, there were lingering questions about how well the U.S. women would be able to play. The players had planned to boycott the tournament until Tuesday, which meant forfeiting a week-long training camp and exhibition game against Finland. After coming to a resolution with USA Hockey that will result in groundbreaking support for the women's team, the U.S. women had only two days to practice together as a team. Would that affect their play?
After defeating reigning Olympic gold medalist Canada, 2-0, the answer is a resounding no. They played a fast, aggressive game, united by their common cause.
The teams matched zeroes through the first period, with the U.S. out-shooting Canada 12-5. Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados, making her first world championship appearance since 2013, kept things knotted with numerous outstanding saves. The Canadians killed a dangerous U.S. power play to keep zeroes on the board.
The second period was much of the same, the U.S. generating scoring opportunities but unable to connect. Goalie Nicole Hensley, making her second world championship start, held up her end of the bargain in the U.S. net. It wasn't until there was 2:06 left in the second period that Brianna Decker opened the scoring on a quick-release shot, redirecting a pass in front of the net from Megan Bozek.
Hensley kept the lead for the U.S., making several huge saves in the beginning of the third period. Gigi Marvin netted another goal with 15:11 remaining in the game on a shot from the point that was accidentally deflected past Szabados by Canada's Marie-Philip Poulin. Despite other U.S. opportunities, Canada's defense held strong. When Szabados was pulled for an extra skater in the waning minutes of the game, it was the U.S. defense that sparkled to preserve its clean sheet.
The U.S. outshot Canada 30-18, and both goalkeepers earned player of the game honors for their outstanding play. Despite it only being Hensley's second world championship start, it was her second world championship shutout. The first happened a year ago to the day, when the U.S. defeated Russia 8-0.
The U.S. will next face Russia on Saturday.