BURLINGTON, VT — Nothing was decided between the U.S. and Canada after a 1-1 overtime-free draw in the round-robin portion of the Four Nations Cup tournament Thursday night. The score will be settled Sunday if the U.S. and Canada can get by Sweden and Finland, respectively, on Saturday to force a gold medal rematch on Sunday, like they always have.
Canada went ahead at 15:33 of the first with a power goal by veteran Jayna Hefford, set up in front from Vicky Sunohara behind the net. The goal came after three consecutive U.S. penalties. Brown alum Katie King tied it up early in the second period when she put in the rebound off a shot from recent Minnesota-Duluth grad Jenny Potter. That was all the scoring for the 1,544 in attendance at Vermont’s Gutterson Fieldhouse.
As has been typical of all recent U.S.-Canada meetings aside from the Olympics, the offenses weren’t quite in sync since teams have so little time to prepare together. The U.S. went 0-for-10 on the power play, while Canada went 1-for-5.
“It’s the first time we’ve done one of the power plays, and our team hasn’t been together long, so you can’t expect much,” said U.S. defenseman Angela Ruggiero, a recent Harvard grad. “I thought we moved the puck extremely well. We had a lot of opportunities, we just couldn’t capitalize on a lot them.”
The best of those opportunities came for the U.S. in the final minutes, as the power play finally was starting to shape up. Hard work by the Minnesota line of Krissy Wendell, Natalie Darwitz and Kelly Stephens helped to draw a penalty on Canada with just under a minute left. On the ensuing rush, U.S. captain Cammi Granato set up Potter with plenty of space to shoot, but she couldn’t put it past Canadian goaltender Charline Labonte, the player of the game with 33 saves.
“We’d been working on our penalty kill the last couple of weeks,” said Dartmouth junior Gillian Apps, a Canadian veteran. “We really tried to keep them to the outside, but we couldn’t have done it without Labonte in net. She was awesome.”
Sarah Vaillancourt, a Harvard freshman, had the best chances to win the game for Canada in third period. She hit a pipe at one point, and later on she put the puck in net on a breakaway but was ruled a step offsides.
The news wasn’t all good for Vaillancourt, however, because she nearly cost Canada the game by trying to sneak a check of U.S. defenseman Lyndsay Wall behind the play midway through the third, giving the U.S. its first 5-on-3 of the day. But the tentative U.S. power play did not capitalize.
“Sarah’s really got to learn to control that,” said Canada coach Melody Davidson, who is also coach of Cornell. “We need her on the ice, and if she takes penalties, we can’t use her. She needs to learn to keep her arms and stick down and play physical within the rules so that we can count on her in those situations.”
Recent Northeastern grad Chanda Gunn made her first career start against Canada for the U.S. and stopped 19 of 20 shots.
“She made some unbelievable saves for us at the end,” Ruggiero said. “It was one of the first big games for her so I’m sure it gave us confidence, and it gave our team confidence.”
The U.S. outshot Canada 34-20 for the game and typically controlled the action five-on-five due to its strong forecheck. Davidson said Canada needs to play with more poise.
“We were a little under the gun the first five minutes,” Davidson said. “The U.S. pressure is totally different from Finalnd and Swdeen’s. I thought for a young group we really settled in.”
Most players were used to the NCAA rules of five-minutes overtime in regular season play, but there was no such luck in international competition.
Ruggiero said: “I was hoping there was overtime, but it’s okay, because hopefully we’ll see them again Sunday.”