The U.S. Under-22 team showed considerable spark during a late comeback bid, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Cammi Granato and the U.S. Red Team at the USA Hockey Women’s Festival in Lake Placid Friday night. Granato led the Reds with two goals in their 5-3 victory, and Angela Ruggiero and Minnesota junior Krissy Wendell each contributed a goal and an assist.
The game was the fourth of a three-team double round-robin scheduled primarily to prepare the U.S. Under-22 team for a series against the Canadian Under-22 team next weekend. The exhibition series also provides an opportunity to evaluate players on the U.S. Red and White team rosters, which include a mixture of younger players and national team veterans.
Both U-22 coach Alana Blahoski and Red Team coach Digit Murphy agreed that the U-22s are starting to come together.
“They [the Under-22s] looked a lot more together than they did on Tuesday,” said Murphy, better known as the Brown head coach. “Their power play was better. They played with more energy. I think they’re trying to get their line combinations together, but I think it’s tough when you’re playing against Ruggiero and Wendell and Granato, so they’re a tough team to play against.”
The U-22 team took an early lead in the first period, as Wisconsin’s Lindsay Macy beat Princeton alum Megan VanBeusekom with a helper from incoming UMD freshman Rachel Drazan at the 12:33 mark. Granato responded with her first goal, tying the game on an assist from Harvard sophomore Jennifer Sifers with under three minutes remaining, sending the game to the first intermission knotted at one.
The second period saw the Red Team break out behind stellar performances from Wendell and Ruggiero. Wendell put her team ahead in the period’s sixth minute with assists from Ruggiero and Minnesota State’s Autumn Conway. Ruggiero followed by scoring a goal of her own on the power play, with former Harvard teammate Sifers supplying her second assist of the evening.
That was the last goal allowed by Wisconsin’s Meghan Horras, as Blahoski inserted Colgate keeper Rebecca Lahar near the midway point of the contest. Lahar got a rough welcome with 4:20 to go, courtesy of Gretchen Anderson’s power-play tally, assisted by Conway and Wendell. Chanda Gunn finished off a flawless second period with several key saves in the waning moments.
“Our goalies were just spectacular,” Murphy said. “Chanda, at the end of the second period, saved two that could have made the game a lot closer.”
The game got a lot closer anyway in the third, as Lahar settled down in net and frustrated the Red Team at every turn, earning praise from Murphy along the way. Lahar and Horras will continue to battle for the starting job against Canada throughout the weekend.
“I think she’s had a really good festival so far,” Murphy said of Lahar. “She sees a lot of shots at Colgate, so she’s poised under pressure. She came in in great shape, so I think, physically, she’s ready, and this is a big thing for her psychologically and emotionally.”
The U-22 offense created some pressure of its own late in the third period, scoring twice in under two minutes to close the deficit to one. A pair of Providence goals narrowed the gap, as the Friars’ Sonny Watrous scored with 6:22 to play, followed by teammate Karen Thatcher with 4:27 left. Both goals saw a contribution from the youngest player at the festival, Sarah Parsons, who is already making her second appearance with the U-22 team. The Dover, Mass. native, who celebrated her seventeenth birthday last month, picked up the primary assists on both scores. Brown’s Amy McLaughlin and Minnesota’s Natalie Darwitz also picked up secondary helpers.
With a minute to go, Blahoski pulled Lahar for an extra skater, but a turnover at the blueline led to Granato’s second goal of the game and put the contest out of the U-22s’ reach.
“It’s just fun to play in some games,” Granato said of the late pressure. “I think it’s good that we pressured them, and they showed a lot of character coming back.”
The U-22s will look to show more character at noon Saturday, as they take on the White Team, coached by Princeton’s Jeff Kampersal and featuring Katie King, Andrea Kilbourne and Pam Dreyer. The Festival will close on Sunday at 2 p.m. with an exhibition between the Red Team and the White Team.