SOCHI, Russia – Canada women’s hockey coach Kevin Dineen saw his share of rivalries during 18 seasons in the NHL followed by nearly another decade among the coaching ranks.
After his team won an edge-of-your-seat 3-2 victory over the U.S. at Shayba Arena, he knew where this matchup ranked.
“I’ve seen lots …,” Dineen said. “Being a Whaler and playing against the Bruins, I spent six years in Columbus, Ohio (where) I’d seen a little bit of the Buckeyes-Michigan rivalry. I spent a lot of years in New England for the Red Sox-Yankees.”
And U.S.-Canada women’s hockey?
“This one is the real deal.”
The teams pushed and shoved and jawed at one another as rivals do but throughout it all played a terrific hockey game despite the result having little significance. Both teams had already advanced out of pool play.
“It’s a heated rivalry,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said. “It’s a great game all the time. We love playing them. We’ve faced them many times and we get jacked up for these games. We sit on this loss until midnight – it’s doesn’t feel great – and you move forward to the next game. You just thank God this wasn’t the final.”
Dineen took over as Canada’s coach in December.
“You always hear, ‘they don’t like each other,’ ” Dineen said. “I don’t buy that. There’s a mutual respect there. Sometimes to be really good you have to have a good foil. Certainly, the U.S. for us is a great measuring stick. This was a typical game. I just hope we keep moving forward and we might get another snapshot in the very near future.”
Canada extended its winning streak in Olympic competition to 18 games and earned the top seed coming out of preliminary play. Trailing 1-0 entering the third, Team Canada rallied on two goals and an assist by Meghan Agosta and a goal and an assist by Hayley Wickenheiser to snap an overall four-game skid against the U.S during pre-Olympics play.
“Coming into the Olympics we were a little down after losing that many games to the U.S.,” Agosta said. “Getting this certainly builds our confidence and we’re exactly where we want to be going 3-0 in the preliminaries, so we’re really happy.”
Hilary Knight’s power-play goal in the second had the U.S. poised to knock off the three-time defending gold medalists but Canada stormed back and was aided by a controversial call on Wickenheiser’s score to make it 2-1. American goaltender Jessie Vetter made the initial stop on Wickenheiser’s shot and the whistle appeared to have been blown before the puck crossed the line. After a review, the score was allowed and Canada rode the momentum to extend the lead to 3-1 on Agosta’s second score. Anne Schleper made it close with a late goal for the U.S. but Canadian netminder Charline Labonte held it off the rest of the way to earn the win.
“We just stuck to the game plan and kept battling,” Agosta said.
The U.S. finished 2-1 in the preliminary round but remains on course to face Canada in the gold-medal contest Feb. 20.
“Coming away with the loss might be a little extra motivation to keep working hard, push ourselves, get a lot of good practices and get ready for the semis,” Vetter said.