Kelly Stephens, senior on the defending champion Minnesota Gophers, has left no question that she’ll be leading by example when the college season begins.
For the second straight evening, Stephens led the U.S Under-22 team to victory over Canada with two goals, including the game-winner. Her pair was part of a three-goal explosion in the third period that led the U.S. to a 4-2 triumph and guaranteed a series win for the second straight year. If the U.S. can win Saturday at Vermont’s Gutterson Fieldhouse, it would be the first team from either nation to go 3-0-0 for the series.
The U.S. trailed midway through the third period, until Providence’s Karen Thatcher redirected a shot from high schooler Sarah Parsons to even the score 2-2. The assist was already Parson’s third career point through two Under-22 series.
Stephens scored the game-winner at the 10:41 mark from Princeton’s Liz Keady, Keady’s third point for the series. Stephens added insurance two minutes later when for the second straight evening, she connected from Wisconsin’s Molly Engstrom on the power play. Fellow Badger Meghan Horras made the score hold from there. She finished with 22 saves on 24 shots in her U-22 debut. Lyndsay Wall assisted on both goals scored by her Gopher teammate.
Late in the second period, Keady scored the first U.S. goal on a one-timer from Stephens to even the score at 1-1. Prior to Keady’s goal, incoming Minnesota State freshman Brit Kehler had stymied the U.S., but she finished with 25 saves on 29 shots and the defeat.
Canada’s chances of evening the series looked promising for two periods thanks to goals by two incoming U.S. college freshmen. Mercyhurst’s Stephanie Jones scored on a shorthanded 2-on-1 with Dartmouth’s Gillian Apps late in the first period for the 1-0 lead, and Harvard’s Sarah Vaillancourt converted a feed from UMD’s Noemie Marin in the third period for a 2-1 lead. But once again, the abundance of U.S. Under-22 players already with national team experience proved too much for Canada to overcome.