It was only the first meeting, and one that in the end is technically insignificant, with both teams having already clinched a spot in the semifinals. But as every woman on the US and Canadian teams will tell you, there is nothing insignificant about these two teams meeting.
Wednesday’s game was no exception to the norm. The first period saw some excellent chances on both sides, but play was absolutely dominated by the goaltenders Jessie Vetter and Charline Labonte, and the teams went into the first intermission tied 0-0. In the second period, however, the US managed to fight through and open the scoring on the power play. Rougeau was called for bodychecking, and it wasn’t long before Annie Schleper’s shot from the point was deflected in by – who else? – Hilary Knight.
Despite taking the 1-0 lead into the second intermission, the US women played an uninspired third period. They let the Canadians control play for almost the entire twenty minutes, allowing three unanswered goals (Agosta-Marciano, Wickenheiser, and Agosta-Marciano again) before finally waking up at the end of the period and coming within one on an Annie Schleper goal with 1:05 left in the game, having pulled Jessie Vetter for the extra attacker. Vetter was pulled again for the final minute, and the US got a power play with 30.4 seconds left in the game, but the offensive push proved to be too little, too late, and the Canadians defeated the US 3-2.
To say that the officiating was controversial in this game is definitely an understatement. Many body-checking calls were missed on both sides, something that didn’t entirely surprise me given the way that games typically go between the US and Canadian women. What was surprising, however, were the multiple too-many-men calls missed on Canada – I counted three instances where Canada blatantly had too many skaters on the ice, and in only one of those instances did the call get made.
There was also a botched goal call in the third period, on Wickenheiser’s goal that pulled Canada ahead. Vetter had the puck under her, the whistle blew the play dead, and then the puck squeaked out from underneath Vetter and into the goal. Apparently this particular issue is non-reviewable, but the officials reviewed it anyway, and in the end called it a good goal for Canada.
“We play to the whistle [and] that’s why we stopped,” forward Hilary Knight said when speaking to the media post-game. “I don’t know if they have sound on the replay, but they made the wrong call.”
Every other US player I saw interviewed – including Vetter herself – expressed identical sentiments. And it isn’t only this game where the officiating has been less than stellar – there have been complaints about both women’s and men’s games having botched goal calls, goals that didn’t count and should have, et cetera. These players deserve better.
The US women aren’t going to let this loss get into their heads. If anything, it has fired them up even more for the inevitable rematch that could very well be in the gold medal game. Currently, though, their focus is on their semifinal matchup Monday the 17th against an opponent to be determined after Saturday’s quarterfinals.