Canada tops U.S. in women’s hockey Rivalry bout

Rivalry Series might be too mild a title.

Canada versus U.S. in women’s ice hockey goes beyond a mere rivalry.

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It is the rivalry. There is no other.

These national sides have met in five of the six Winter Olympics gold-medal games and shared all 19 IIHF world championship titles between them. The teams renewed acquaintances Monday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in the third game of the Rivalry Series. Canada won 3-2 on an overtime goal by Victoria Bach.

The Americans won the first two games in December — 4-1 in Hartford, Connecticut, and 2-1 in Moncton, N.B. The five-game series concludes with fixtures Wednesday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver and Feb. 8 in Anaheim, California.

“This rivalry keeps getting better,” said Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin.

“Both teams have the same goals and the same dreams.”

Simply put, both harbour golden ambitions each time out at the world championships or Winter Olympics.

The two nations have won all 19 world championships, with Canada taking 10 titles and the U.S. nine.

“Every game between our teams is an intense battle,” said Poulin, who has two Olympic gold medals and a silver, and six world championship silvers and a gold and bronze.

The sold-out crowd of 7,006 Monday on Blanshard sported Canada jerseys. Even though many were of the men’s variety, from No. 1 Roberto Luongo to No. 87 Sidney Crosby, the spirit and support were unmistakable for the women’s national side.

There were some Micah Zandee-Hart No. 28 jerseys in evidence. The defenceman from Saanichton, the lone B.C. player on the Canadian team, played in the first two games of the Rivalry Series but wasn’t available for the game in her hometown Monday because of schooling and NCAA commitments at Cornell University.

Many in the crowd were young Island female players dreaming of being the next Zandee-Hart, Poulin, Sarah Nurse or Natalie Spooner.

“I hope we can inspire them. It’s so cool it is sold out,” said Canadian forward Spooner, who won a Winter Olympics gold medal at Sochi in 2014 and an Olympic silver at Pyeongchang in 2018.

It is the sort of support Canada will be relying on March 31 to April 10 when it hosts the 2020 IIHF world championship tournament in Halifax and Truro, N.S.

“We call it our seventh player and it will be super important to us this year at the worlds,” said Poulin.

Especially with something to prove.

“We only made the bronze-medal game at last year’s worlds,” said Poulin, of what was a true aberration in 2019.

There is also the underlying storyline of the U.S. having won the last five world championships, eight of the last nine, and also gold at the last Winter Olympics in 2018 at Pyeongchang.

“We are focused this year on growing as a group,” said Poulin.

The Rivalry Series is an opportunity to do that.

“We’re all excited to be playing the world championships on home soil,” said Canadian forward Nurse.

“These Rivalry Series games this week in Victoria and Vancouver are setting the tone for that.”

The big prize, of course, is the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

“But you obviously don’t just jump to the next Olympics,” said Nurse, silver medallist with Canada at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

“It’s a process. It’s about building a championship culture over the next two years event by event and tournament by tournament.”

ICE CHIPS: Brianne Jenner scored short-handed to give Canada the lead in the second period Monday. Hilary Knight counted on the power play for the U.S. before Savannah Harmon gave the Americans the lead in the third period. Brigette Lacquette scored on the power play for Canada to tie it 2-2.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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