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Reflections on the first two games of the 2019 Rivalry Series

A recap of the first two games of the 2019 Rivalry Series

Canada v United States Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Heading into the 2019 Rivalry Series, we all knew that there didn’t have to be a gold medal or a big trophy on the line for Team Canada and Team USA to bring their best. With the first two games in the books, there are a lot of storylines to keep tabs on.

Game One | Feb. 12

USA 1, Canada 0

  • SOG: Canada 33, USA 21
  • Power Play: Canada 0/2, USA 0/2
  • Goals: Hilary Knight
  • Emerance Maschmeyer .952 save percentage (20/21)
  • Alex Rigsby 1.000 save percentage (33/33)

As expected, the first game of the Rivalry Series was intense and physical. Sarah Nurse was sent to the box just five and a half minutes into the game for goaltender interference, and things definitely didn’t settle down after that.

We saw hits, battles, and plenty of contact all game long. One of the highlights of the game came towards the end of the first period when Megan Bozek looked ready to take on five or six members of Team Canada.

Things opened up in the second period after a scoreless first, but we didn’t see our first goal of the game until there was just over a minute and a half remaining on the clock.

Hilary Knight scored the game’s only goal by cashing in on a juicy rebound that was created after Savannah Harmon’s point shot hit Brandt, who was screening Maschmeyer. The secondary assist that Harmon earned was her first point for the senior national team. Head coach Bob Corkum gave the trio of Knight, Brandt, and Cameranesi a lot of ice time together all game long. It also appeared that he kept Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne Schofield together and was trying different wingers with them throughout the game.

Corkum appeared to be content to protect the lead in the third period — or at least that’s what it looked like. The Canadians poured it on in the third and out-shot Team USA by a margin of 12-2. Perry Pearn’s team found a way to break through Team USA’s blue line stand thanks in large part to their ability to fly up the wings with control of the puck. From there, Canada created chances by moving the puck around the perimeter and creating havoc around Rigsby’s crease with their big forwards.

Somehow, Rigsby had answers for all of Team Canada’s chances. Her 33-save shutout is undoubtedly the performance of the series thus far.

Game Two | Feb. 14

Canada 4, USA 3

  • SOG: Canada 30, USA 27
  • Power Play: Canada 2/6, USA 1/2
  • Goals: Alex Carpenter (PP), Marie-Philip Poulin, Hannah Brandt, Laura Fortino (PP), Brianne Jenner (PP), Jamie Lee Rattray, Brianna Decker
  • Geneviève Lacasse .889 save percentage (24/27)
  • Katie Burt .867 save percentage (26/30)

Things really opened up in the second game of the Rivalry Series. If goaltending was the story of Game One, special teams was definitely the story of Game Two.

The Americans got on the board first when Alex Carpenter ripped a shot from the top of the slot past Lacasse on the power play. Team USA went on the power play after Kendall Coyne Schofield’s speed forced Erin Ambrose to take a tripping penalty.

Laura Stacey set up Marie-Philip Poulin with a gorgeous pass 1:44 after Carpenter’s goal and Captain Canada did not miss. Hannah Brandt found a bouncing puck loose in Lacasse’s crease to give Team USA the lead again halfway through the first, but everything changed after that.

Canada went on a parade of power plays, and punished the U.S. for its lack of discipline. The Canadians’ power play delivered two goals just over six minutes apart — courtesy of Laura Fortino and Brianne Jenner — to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.

Team USA looked like a different team in the third. After a second period filled with exhausting penalty killing, the Americans fared much better at creating controlled zone entries and disrupting Canada with their forecheck in the final period. Thus far, it was their most impressive period of hockey in the series.

Bob Corkum finally reunited the big line of Brianna Decker, Hilary Knight, and captain Kendall Coyne Schofield after Canada took a two-goal lead on Rattray’s goal seven minutes into the period. In one of their first shifts together, the trio that spearheaded Team USA’s offense in Pyeongchang scored a goal to cut Canada’s lead in half.

Geneviève Lacasse elevated her game after the Decker goal. She made a huge stop on Knight with the game on the line and performed much better than her .889 save percentage might suggest. It was a big win for the veteran netminder, who has missed much of the 2018-19 season due to an injury.

Fittingly enough, things boiled over at the end of the game.


Reflections

Standout Skaters

Hilary Knight has had a big series thus far. Her three points leads all skaters in the series and she’s managed to stay out of the box — which is something that many of the other big names have not been able to do. She’s been outstanding on the forecheck and around the crease.

To the surprise of no one Kendall Coyne Schofield’s speed has been a huge factor. Whenever Team USA has had trouble breaking through Canada’s blue line, Coyne Schofield would just flies into the zone to negate the icing. Everyone on Team Canada knows it’s coming, but no one can really stop it.

For Canada, it’s been the Laura Stacey and Marie-Philip Poulin show. They have been engineering most of Canada’s best chances this series. Ann-Sophie Bettez has also looked solid thus far in her first few games with the senior national team. She’s been on the top line with Poulin and Rebecca Johnston.

It’s also been encouraging to see Jamie Lee Rattray pick up two points, including a big goal in the third period of Game Two. Like Bettez, Rattray is a veteran forward looking to play her way onto Team Canada’s 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship roster. She’s seen a lot of ice time with Stacey and Blayre Turnbull, who have both looked great.

Size Matters?

Canada has four forwards who are at least 5-foot-9. The average defender on Team USA is just shy of 5-foot-6. As you might expect, Canada has been having success going hard to the net and out-muscling Team USA to find rebounds. Brianne Jenner scored a big power play goal in the first period of the second game by digging for a loose puck and jamming it through Burt.

The battle in front of both creases is definitely something to keep an eye on.

Discipline

The impact that special teams had on the outcome of the second game can’t be overstated. Team USA took six-consecutive penalties between the second and third period and gave up two power play goals. In addition to surrendering the lead, USA’s lack of discipline

Were some of the calls tight? Sure they were, but Canada’s skaters deserve credit for controlling the first two periods of the game. When you have the puck on your stick, you’re going to draw penalties. Team Canada’s blue line was excellent at moving the puck in Game Two and that resulted in a great transition game that caused all kinds of problems for Team USA until the third period.

After the game, Corkum was convinced that all of the penalties took a toll on his team. “Thought we got off to a good start with a couple of goals in the first period, we spent too much time playing with a player down in the second to be able to play our game and really hit our stride,” the head coach shared in a team release.

Data courtesy of hockeycanada.ca and the author’s own tracking.