HARTFORD, Conn. – The U.S. women’s ice hockey team used a pair of crucial power-play goals to power to a 4-1 win over Team Canada in the opener of the 2019-20 Rivalry Series at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, which also marked the seventh and final event of the 2019 Team USA Champions Series, presented by Xfinity.
The hosts fired the first salvo in the opener of a five-game series.
"It's always fun to play in front of a packed crowd. It was a big part of our success tonight," said Alex Carpenter, who contributed a goal and an assist in the effort. “The support means the world to us.”
An early hooking penalty by Team USA's Kendall Coyne Schofield led to the initial score of the game. Former Cornell University blueliner Jaime Bourbonnais' snap shot from the left faceoff dot breezed past U.S. goalie Alex Cavallini, stickside.
Canada's early edge proved short-lived, however, as 2019 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner Loren Gabel's roughing penalty led to the game-tying marker. Megan Keller took a textbook feed from Annie Pankowski near the right post and redirected by goalie Genevieve Lacasse just over two minutes later.
Four of the six new U.S. players in camp got a glimpse of the long-standing rivalry and what's in store for the remainder of the five-game Rivalry Series. Kelly Browne skated on a line with Coyne-Schofield and Sydney Brodt, and Britta Curl and Abby Roque opened the game on the fourth line with Pankowski.
Two-time Olympic medalist Amanda Kessel provided the eventual game winner on a power play late in the middle period with help from Kelly Pannek and Carpenter.
Carpenter, one of a dozen remaining players at camp from the 2018 Olympic gold-medal team, capped the win in the final period with an even-strength goal at 4:04. Cavallini, who finished with 31 saves, was chosen as the game MVP. Lacasse turned aside 27 Team USA bids.
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The Rivalry Series serves as a precursor to the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship, which will take place in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia, beginning on March 31. The series continues to Moncton, New Brunswick on Tuesday; Victoria, British Columbia, Feb. 3; and Vancouver, British Columbia, Feb. 5, before closing out at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California on Feb. 8.
The dominant teams most recently faced off in a pair of exhibitions at a joint training camp at the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins practice arena in last month. Canada notched 4-1 and 5-3 wins, a point of contention for the home team in postgame analysis.
"We managed the puck better than we did in Pittsburgh, and obviously the results were better,” said Team USA head coach Bob Corkum following the win.
Carpenter afforded wiggle room to Team USA’s efforts less than two minutes after Roque's marker when she found the net from the low slot, catching Lacasse moving to the far post.
“None of us were happy [about Pittsburgh], and what you saw tonight was more hard work,” said Carpenter.
Roque, who did not skate in the Pittsburgh outings, got her first chance to make an impression and hit it out of the park, notching the insurance goal.
"The team has been very welcoming and supporting,” said Roque. "I'm sure that led to my goal as I was comfortable out there tonight. It was a great experience."
Corkum's staff now has the unenviable task of paring the roster down.
"I think they all stood out, they all played well, and that will certainly make our decision difficult going forward,” he said. “I don't really have an idea on how much tinkering we have to do with the roster. Things are changing all the time."
Ken Castro is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.