TAMPA, Fla. – “Score for me.”
That’s what Team USA women’s ice hockey player Hannah Brandt and her sister, Marissa, already a member of South Korea’s Olympic team, say to each other.
Marissa, who is 11 months older and was adopted by the Brandt family seven months before Hannah was born, scored a goal earlier this week in South Korea’s international tournament.
Hannah watched that game online and Marissa did the same Sunday to see Hannah score the first two goals in Team USA’s 5-1 win over Canada in the Four Nations Cup championship game.
After 35 scoreless minutes, Brandt scored twice in a span of 1:43 to put the United States on top for a lead it never relinquished. After Canada scored midway through the third period, Team USA scored three goals in a glorious final 4 minutes to ice the win.
Brandt’s goal with 4:54 to go in the second period, assisted by Dani Cameranesi and Kacey Bellamy, prompted a flurry of American-flag waving in Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Then on Team USA’s third of eight power play opportunities, Brandt scored on a point-blank shot, assisted by Cameranesi and Amanda Kessel.
Brandt, who will turn 24 later this month, had hoped to make the 2014 Olympic team and was crushed when she was cut. Team USA now has 24 players, and only 23 can advance to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
By having the hot stick against Canada, Hannah made a good case for herself.
With the host country guaranteed a spot, South Korea recruited players, including Marissa. Both Brandt sisters started as figure skaters and when Hannah switched to hockey, Marissa followed her so they could stay together.
“It would be an incredible honor to be able to represent this team at the Olympics and to be able to go with my sister would be even more special,” said Hannah, who also scored a goal Friday against Sweden.
Hannah, a forward, said she talks almost every day with Marissa, a defenseman, via text, and they try to FaceTime with each other at least once a week.
They’ll have a lot to discuss this week.
“For Hannah Brandt to step up and get us going tonight brought a lot of energy to our bench,” said team captain Megan Duggan. “She did a fantastic job. She’s a goal scorer at heart. She adds a ton of depth and goal-scoring ability to our lineup and I’m really happy she got rewarded tonight with those two.”
So was all of Team USA, which won the Four Nations Cup for the eighth time in the 22-year history of the tournament (which was the Three Nations Cup five of its first six years). Team USA has won five of the last seven titles, including the last three in a row.
The United States and Canada have met 20 times in the final game (Team USA did not participate in 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11).
This was the fourth meeting between the two countries this season and Team USA holds a 3-1 advantage, including two wins in the Four Nations Cup, which is part of The Time is Now Tour presented by Toyota.
They will meet four more times in December, twice in Canada and twice in the United States – also on The Time is Now Tour -- as they prepare for the Winter Games.
“Especially at this point, it gives us a ton of momentum going into PyeongChang and continuing in the Time is Now Tour,” said goalie Maddie Rooney, who had 18 saves, two fewer than she did in Team USA’s 4-2 win over Canada on Wednesday.
After Meghan Agosta put the Canadians on the scoreboard on a power play with 9:18 left in the game, Team USA scored three times in the final 3:41. The first two were power play tallies by Hilary Knight, assisted by Kendall Coyne and Bellamy; and Kessel, assisted by Emily Pfalzer and Cameranesi. Then Coyne scored at even strength with 17 seconds on the clock, assisted by Knight and Cameranesi again.
“I think the biggest thing coming out of tonight was just the amount of patience we displayed as clearly the game opened up in the last seven, eight minutes,” said Team USA coach Robb Stauber.
“Obviously it’s being on the right end of it going into the third period, up 2-0.”
And that last four minutes? “We might bottle that,” he said.
They could use it in February. Team USA won the gold medal in the inaugural women’s Olympic hockey tournament in 1998, but Canada has won the four gold medals since as Team USA has won three silvers and a bronze.
The two bitter rivals get a good look at each other in each pre-Olympic campaign, scheduling multiple meetings.
Team USA won their first matchup this season, 5-2 in an exhibition in Quebec City on Oct. 22, then Canada came back three days later to win 5-1 in Boston.
“I think we bring out the best in one another,” said Knight. “It’s a huge border battle every time we step on the ice and there’s a lot of pride that goes into the game.”
Knight has two silver medals and is determined to get that gold, hence “The Time is Now” name for the tour.
“It’s gold or bust for us,” she said. “We’ve had a 20-year gold medal drought and we’re aware of that. We’re aware of what the end prize is, the end expectations, we have a lot of work to do but we’re going to work hard to get there.”
And this is another step to that goal. “It’s always great when you can get a good opponent against you and you can get some looks, figure out how to problem-solve on the fly and get yourself out of different situations,” Knight said. “You see a lot of our younger girls that are growing up and making huge plays for us so it’s a great all-around win.”
The game started out slowly. In the first period, Canada had 8 shots on goal compared to 7 for Team USA.
“We had numerous opportunities we didn’t capitalize on,” said Team Canada coach Laura Schuler.
By the end of the second frame, the United States had 22 shots on goal to the Canadians’ 14. Genevieve Lacasse had 22 saves for Canada.
“Early on, it was a little cat and mouse game, trying to feel each other out and figure out what we need to do to perform,” Duggan said.
With Canada down 2-1 and hoping to tie the game, Team USA kept its emotions in check while the Canadians had three costly late penalties and, said Duggan, “We were able to put a few nails in the coffin.”
And while the time may not be now – yet – for Team USA, but said Coyne, “We’re right where we want to be in November.”