GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- The rivalry between the U.S. women’s ice hockey team and Canada isn’t just one of geographic convenience. These two teams are constantly battling for top finishes and keeping games close on the world’s biggest stages.
When Team USA and Canada met on Thursday, that was again the case. In a game that wasn’t sealed until the final buzzer sounded, the U.S. team fell 2-1 to Canada in its final preliminary-round match of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
“I think we put some doubt in Canadians' minds,” U.S. forward Amanda Kessel said.
Team USA trailed 2-0 when the second period ended, but two-time Olympian Kendall Coyne scored quickly when the U.S. returned to the ice. Suddenly, the U.S. stood just one goal away from reaching the Canadians.
“Kendall is somebody you can always count on,” Kessel said. “She really got our team going.”
The U.S. searched for chances to shoot what could have been a game-tying goal all the way until the clock hit zero. The matchup ended on a review to check if the puck had crossed into the goal on Team USA’s final effort. The officials ruled the U.S. hadn’t scored, marking Team USA’s first loss in these Games.
Heading into the game against Canada, the U.S. women had already earned a bye into the semifinals. They will continue their Olympic play on Feb. 19.
In the Kwandong Hockey Centre on Thursday, Canada struck first, scoring about seven minutes into the second period on a power play. Fewer than 10 minutes later, the Canadians extended their lead with another goal.
“It's a great, fast, physical, fun game to be a part of,” Coyne said of facing the familiar opponent. “It's just finding a way to come out on the other end of it.”
While Canada ended the day ahead on the scoreboard, the U.S. tallied 45 shots compared to Canada’s 23. That’s why Kessel said she can easily see the positives from this game. Usually, with that many more shots, the U.S. would have won, she said.
In the other two games the U.S. has played in PyeongChang, Team USA accumulated a similar shot advantage compared to its opponents.
“I just don't know how that doesn't pay off,” head coach Robb Stauber said. “It's going to pay off. It's tough to outshoot teams 3-1, but we'll go for that and I think we're capable of it. I think everybody that has been around hockey knows that if you keep doing that, you're going to get rewarded.”
The rivalry between Team USA and Canada has a long history at the Olympic Winter Games. After winning the inaugural Olympic tournament in 1998, the U.S. lost to Canada in the gold-medal games in 2002, 2010 and 2014 (taking bronze in 2006). However, in every world championships since the Sochi Games, Team USA has finished the tournament victorious, each time after defeating Canada in the final.
As the PyeongChang Games continue, Team USA is likely to meet its northern neighbor again, possibly even when it matters most — in the gold-medal game.
“It's great to play a great team,” forward Hilary Knight said. “It's sort of the two giants of the hockey world colliding, and that's what the fans like to see. It's a rivalry we get up for. It's just a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we weren't on the right side of the battle tonight.”
Emily Giambalvo is a student in the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is part of TeamUSA.org’s coverage team for the PyeongChang Games.