Canadian women take 1st Olympic showdown against US 2-1

Sarah Nurse, right, of Canada, is congratulated by teammate Laura Stacey after scoring a goal against the United States during the second period of a preliminary round during a women's hockey game at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Canada won 2-1. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) Meghan Agosta and Sara Nurse each scored in the second period and defending Olympic champion Canada clinched the top spot in pool play by edging the United States 2-1 on Thursday in an early showdown between the dominant powers in women’s hockey.

Genevieve Lacasse made 44 saves, including stopping Hilary Knight at the post inside the final 90 seconds. Brianne Decker hit two posts, the second time coming in the final seconds, before the two rivals ended up in a scrum. Officials reviewed the final play and ruled no goal. The Canadians also had two goals disallowed.

Canada coach Laura Schuler was happy with the win, especially Lacasse’s performance.

”She played outstanding for us,” Schuler said.

Kendall Coyne scored the lone goal for the Americans.

Canada and the United States are the only countries to ever win gold at the Olympics. The Americans won gold in 1998 when women’s hockey joined the Olympics, while Canada is here looking for a fifth straight gold medal for the country that created the sport.

They played eight times last fall through a pre-Olympic exhibition tour and the Four Nations Cup. The United States won two of the first three, but Canada now has won five straight against their biggest – and only – rival in the sport.

”We’re not worried about it, nope,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said. ”We’re focused on the things that we can control, and certainly those games that we’ve played in the past have nothing to do with our future. Absolutely nothing to do with our future.”

The familiarity between the teams meant the usually chippy game.

”It’s always a battle, especially playing the U.S.,” Agosta said. ”We just got to kind of keep it coming.”

Said Coyne: ”It’s always a great game when we played Canada.”

The United States certainly had plenty of chances, outshooting Canada 45-23.

After missing on a penalty shot and hitting a post late in the second, the Americans got on the board when Coyne raced through four Canadians and scored 23 seconds into the third period.

Canada thought briefly it had the first goal of the game with 3:15 left in the first period, but Melodie Daoust and captain Marie-Philip Poulin were in the crease with the play blown dead. The official immediately signaled no goal.

Agosta put Canada up 1-0 at 7:18 of the second on the power play. With Megan Keller in the box for interfering with Poulin, Natalie Spooner in her 100th international game spun and hit Agosta in the slot with a backhanded pass. Agosta’s shot went off Rooney’s glove and in for the goal.

Nurse scored at 14:56 with a shot from the left circle that went off Rooney’s elbow. Laura Stacey appeared to be offside as Canada brought the puck into the zone, but the United States did not challenge.

Officials awarded Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson a penalty shot at 16:08 of the second after Canadian forward Haley Irwin placed a glove on top of the puck in the crease amid a pile of bodies in the crease. Lamoureux-Davidson, who scored the fastest back-to-back goals in Olympic history in the U.S. win over Russia, went too slow and got the puck caught near her right foot before a backhand Lacasse easily deflected.

Stauber started Maddie Rooney, his youngest goalie with all three of the U.S. wins against Canada.

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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