OTTAWA—Amanda Kessel starred as the United States won their fifth IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship gold medal beating Canada 3–2 in a hard-fought contest at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday.
Kessel scored the winning goal early in the third period on an outstanding individual effort. The sister of Toronto Maple Leafs winger Phil Kessel scored a goal much like her brother using speed and an accurate shot to beat Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados. Kessel was named player of the game for the U.S.
The US outshot Canada 30–16 in what was reflective of a game in which the Americans were deserving of the win.
“We really handed it to them today,” Kessel said. “It was a 60-minute effort. I really felt like our team had some jump in us.”
The two rivals met in the opening game for both teams on April. 2. Canada came back from a 2–0 deficit in the third period to win in a shootout over the U.S.
Kessel was pleased with the complete effort of her teammates and how they didn’t let this match slip away.
By contrast, the Canadians felt unanimously that they didn’t play a complete game and that the U.S. speed was a critical factor. Penalties proved costly to Canada in the second period.
“They were the better team tonight. We ran into penalty trouble for a bit,” Bailey Bram summarized.
Kessel and her linemate Brianna Decker were the dominant players for the U.S.
“They did well tonight,” Canadian defender Laura Fortino said. “Anytime we play them, there’s always something new that we learn as a team about ourselves.”
Since the opening game, the U.S. methodically marched past Switzerland and Finland twice to reach the gold-medal game. The U.S. has been spurred by Decker’s six goals, a tournament-best power play, and a near-perfect penalty killing unit.
Canada was spectacular in reaching the gold-medal game scoring 31 regulation time goals and conceding only 3, with 80 percent of them coming in periods two and three.
Canada got on the board first when Courtney Birchard fired a slap shot past U.S. goalie Jessie Vedder at 9:50 of the first period. Up to that point, the US had been more dangerous, outshooting Canada 7–1.
The U.S. evened the score early in the second period when their top scorer Decker weaved in to the slot and slid a low shot past Szabados. Kessel began exerting her influence on the game, showcasing her skill and speed and drawing a penalty from Canada’s Tessa Bonhomme.
Canada took four straight penalties in the second period. With Rebecca Johnston and captain Hayley Wickenheiser both in the box, the U.S. capitalized on the two-player advantage. Megan Bozek slapped a hard shot past Szabados to give the U.S. the lead with just over five minutes to play in the second period.
But Canada evened the score at 2–2 at 17:50 of the second period with a slapshot from Caroline Ouellette on the power play. Ouellette’s shot found the top corner and was only Canada’s second shot of the period.
Kessel gave the U.S. the lead for good early in the third period with a goal that will make fans think of her brother Phil. She made a nice move in the neutral zone past Wickenheiser and sped in to the Canadian end. Kessel then picked the top corner of Szabados’s net.
“We’ve help each other throughout the years. He’s just an awesome player that I look up to,” Amanda Kessel said about her brother Phil.
The similarities in their play were clear.
“We both bring the speed obviously and really just have great vision. We use our speed to our advantage,” Kessel said.
The U.S. defense stymied Canada in the third period. Canada didn’t record a second shot on goal for the period until there were five minutes left to play.
Looking ahead to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the two teams are likely to compete again for the gold medal. The North American rivals have completely dominated women’s hockey with Canada winning 10 gold medals and the U.S. five in the 15 years the tournament has been held.
“We have a whole year to prepare now and learn from our mistakes so that when it comes to Olympics time we can get that gold medal,” Fortino said.
Wickenheiser was visibly disappointed with loss and not winning back-to-back titles.
“We have to find a way to win back-to-back. That’s really important moving ahead,” Wickenheiser said. “It’s just not good enough,” she said about the Canadian performance.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports