In front of an announced 17,227 at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, Sun Valley’s Hilary Knight silenced a boisterous Canadian crowd by scoring the first goal for the U.S. in the final pre-Olympic exhibition game between the American and Canadian women’s hockey teams Dec. 30.
Knight, 24, the 5-11 power forward who has led the U.S. national team in its recent surge, was on the ice for all three U.S. goals in a second-period flurry that carried the Americans to a 3-2 win and their fourth consecutive pre-Olympic win over Canada’s defending gold medalists.
Earlier this fall, Canada had beaten the U.S. 3-2, 6-3 and 4-2.
But the U.S. bounced back with a 5-1 win Dec. 12 at Calgary, Alberta, Canada and added a 4-1 fight-filled triumph Dec. 20 at Grand Forks, N.D. Then, on Dec. 28, Knight scored the game winner in a shootout as the U.S. prevailed 3-2 before 9,000 at St. Paul, Minn.
Last Monday, at the home arena of the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs, Knight along with teammates Kelli Stack, 25, of Brooklyn Heights, Ohio and Megan Bozek of Buffalo Grove, Ill. each scored for a 3-0 U.S. lead in the final match-up between the world’s two women’s hockey powers before the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
After a scoreless opening frame that saw quality chances by both teams, the U.S. struck for back-to-back goals in a 51-second span early in the second. Knight made it 1-0 when she drove hard to the net and redirected a Stack centering pass over Canada goalie Genevieve Lacasse's leg at 2:32.
Then, with the U.S. on the power play, 19-year-old Alex Carpenter of North Reading, Mass. beat a Canadian defender off the wall and dished the puck to Stack at the edge of the crease. Stack gathered the puck, deked and scored at 3:23 to increase Team USA's advantage to 2-0.
Bozek pushed the U.S. lead to 3-0 with a power-play marker of her own with 16:54 gone in the middle stanza. After Stack won an offensive-zone faceoff, Bozek sent a slapshot from the point through traffic and under Lacasse's glove—with Knight looming next to her in the crease.
Knight and goalie Lacasse were teammates for the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s League (CWHL) last March 23 when the Blades trounced three-time CWHL champion Montreal Stars 5-2 in the title game of the Clarkson Cup tournament—before only 800 spectators at Markham Centennial Centre near Toronto, Ontario.
In her first year with the Blades, Knight was named the CWHL Most Valuable Player last March. She played four seasons for the University of Wisconsin from 2007-12 with 143 goals and 262 points in 161 collegiate games. Yet 2010 Olympian Knight is still looking for her first gold Olympic gold medal skating for the U.S.
Canada rallied in the Dec. 30 game and outshot the U.S. 9-5 in the third period but couldn’t score the equalizer.
Natalie Spooner scored on a two-on-one late in the second frame before Brianne Jenner connected on a shorthanded rush to cut the U.S. lead to 3-2 early in the third. Yet the U.S. preserved the one-goal edge thanks to several tremendous stops by goaltender Molly Schaus of Natick, Mass. Schaus finished with 25 saves.
“We played a very consistent game tonight and the players trusted each other out there,” said Katey Stone, head coach of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team. “That, in tandem with strong goaltending by Schaus, gave us the edge we needed.”
Olympic team is named
After the rubber game of the seven-game pre-Olympic series between the two teams, the U.S. national team headed to Ann Arbor, Mich.
There, the 2014 Olympic women’s team of 18 skaters and three goalies was announced Jan. 1 during the second intermission of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic contest between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings in front of over 100,000 spectators at Michigan Stadium.
Knight was one of 11 forwards named on the team that is captained by Meghan Duggan, 26, of Danvers, Mass., the Boston Blades and the University of Wisconsin.
Other forwards are:
Alex Carpenter, 19, from Boston College; Kendall Coyne, 21, of Palos Heights, Ill. and Northeastern Univ.; Julie Chu, 31, of Fairfield, Conn. and Harvard Univ.; Brianna Decker, 22, of Dousman, Wisc. and the Univ. of Wisconsin; Lyndsey Fry, 21, of Chandler, Az. and Harvard Univ.;
Amanda Kessel, 22, of Madison, Wisc. and Univ. of Minnesota; twin sisters Jocelyne Lamoureux and Monique Lamoureux, 24, of Grand Forks, N.D. and Univ. of North Dakota; and Kelli Stack, 25, from the Boston Blades and Boston College.
The defensemen are:
Megan Bozek, 22, from Univ. of Minnesota; Kacey Bellamy, 26, of Westfield, Mass., Boston Blades and Univ. of New Hampshire; Gigi Marvin, 26, of Warroad, Minn., Boston Blades and Univ. of Minnesota; Michelle Picard, 20, of Taunton, Mass. and Harvard Univ.; Josephine Pucci, 23, of Pearl River, N.Y. and Harvard Univ.; Anne Schleper, 23, of St. Cloud, Minn., Boston Blades and Univ. of Minnesota; and Lee Stecklein, 19, of Roseville, Minn. and Univ. of Minnesota.
Molly Schaus, 25, from Boston Blades and Boston College; Jessie Vetter, 28, of Cottage Grove, Wisc., Oregon Outlaws and Univ. of Wisconsin; and Brianne McLaughlin, 26, of Sheffield Village, Ohio and Robert Morris University.
The Olympic team’s final month of preparation will feature skating in a number of scrimmages against Midget teams from around the Boston area. The U.S. national team has trained this past fall at The Edge Sports Center in Bedford, Mass. outside Boston.
Knight has said that the strategy of playing against young high-school aged men has given the U.S. women a chance to experience more skating speed than they are accustomed to. She said the women enjoy pushing the pace and pushing the envelope in playing with the male players.
Canada, seeking its fourth consecutive Olympic gold in women’s hockey, named its 21-player Olympic roster on Dec. 23 at Calgary.
Although Canada’s new Olympic team has less experience than its two previous editions, it includes 12 players who helped beat the U.S. women 2-0 in the 2010 gold medal game at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Women’s hockey debuted at the Olympics in 1998 with the U.S. winning the inaugural gold, then Canada taking the next three Olympic titles.
The XXII Olympic Games women’s hockey tournament scheduled for Feb. 8-17 at the Bolshoy Ice Dome of Shayba Arena in Sochi, Russia features eight teams in two pools.
The U.S. is grouped with Canada, Finland and Switzerland in Group A. Opening-round games for the U.S. are Feb. 8 against Finland, Feb. 10 against Switzerland and Feb. 12 against Canada. The four-team Group B includes Great Britain, Germany, Japan and Russia.
Although Canada has enjoyed more success at recent Olympics, the Americans are the reigning IIHF women’s world champions, having beaten Team Canada 3-2 in the gold medal game last April at Ottawa, Canada.
Team USA has won four of the last five world women’s ice hockey championships—Knight a member of all four of those title teams.