When Karen Thatcher helped set up Friar teammate Sonny Watrous in front for the game-winning goal early in the third period of Saturday’s 3-2 U.S. Under-22 women’s victory over Canada, Providence coach Bob Deraney had more reason to be thrilled than anyone else in the crowd of 659 at Vermont’s Gutterson Fieldhouse.
“Seeing Watrous score from Thatcher today for the game-winning goal actually gave me goosebumps,” Deraney said. “You always think your kids are going to be clutch and rise to the occasion and make the big play at the big time, so it’s nice to see that on the national scene.”
Watrous’ goal came on an afternoon with a scarcity of offensive opportunities, as the shot totals were just U.S. 16, Canada 14. But it was enough to give the U.S. the first sweep ever in the history of the Under-22 series, a fact not lost on the team.
“It’s a developmental series, but this is still the biggest thing the team plays for,” said U.S. coach Alana Blahoski. “Having [swept] for the first in the history of the U-22 series is pretty remarkable, and these girls in the room think so as well.”
The game-winning goal was a result of hard work in front of the net. Through a mess of traffic, Thatcher got the puck low to Molly Engstrom, who found Watrous at the top of the crease. The score was a thrill in a homecoming for Watrous, who attended NAHA Prep School in Vermont after originally coming from New Mexico.
“Everyone was just going to the net hard,” Watrous said. “It was definitely a team goal.”
Neither team had an abundance of scoring chances down the stretch, but Canada still had a few chances to tie the game. In the final minutes, the top line of the Bluewater club’s Meghan Agosta and Dartmouth players Gillian Apps and Katie Weatherston had a three-on-one, but Weatherston couldn’t redirect Agosta’s feed at the last second. Wisconsin goaltender Meghan Horras made the kick save, one of eight as she kept Canada scoreless in the game’s last half. The U.S. blueliners, with three national teamers and one Olympian among them, could not be budged.
Agosta had another chance in the final seconds with traffic at the crease, but she couldn’t scoop the puck into the net, leaving Canada 0-3 for the series.
“It was a developmental tournament and for a lot of the girls it was their first time playing international competition and we have a young team,” said Apps, who was Canada’s captain. “We got better as the tournament went along, so we’re not leaving on too much of a negative note.”
Incoming Niagara freshman Ashley Riggs was a bright spot for Canada, scoring both of her team’s goals on great open-ice individual efforts that deceived Colgate goaltender Rebecca Lahar, who stopped six of 8 shots in the game’s first half. Riggs’ first goal came on a straight shot just 2:31 into the game. She also gave Canada a 2-1 lead at 2:06 of the second period with a high backhanded shot form the left faceoff circle.
The U.S. victory was of the come-from-behind variety for the second straight game. Sarah Parsons, the only high-schooler on the U.S. team, scored the first game-tying goal 10:42 in the first period on the power play, when she deflected a shot from Dartmouth’s Tiffany Hagge off the shoulder of Canadian goaltender Brittony Chartier.
“It was all my teammates,” Parsons said. “[Hagge] put the shot on net.”
Parsons, a Dover, Mass. native at Noble & Greenough high school, has already played on two U-22 teams and scored multiple points in each year’s series. She has no specific inkling of where she would like to play in college, but her mindset now is to stay close to home in the East.
UMD’s Jessica Koizumi scored the second U.S. goal on the team’s first shot of the second period at the 11:27 mark. Brown’s Jessica Link passed back with the perfect setup, and Koizumi fired a one-time bullet into the right corner. The shot stonewalled Chartier, who stopped 11 of 14 for the day.
As the series ends, 37 of the 43 participants will now look ahead to college season. All hope they’ve made good impressions on their respective national programs for their future Olympic and World Championship dreams.