VICTORIA, B.C - The battle is back on as Hockey Canada and USA get set to renew pleasantries this week in the rivalry series. Team USA took both games in December with 4-1 and 2-1 victories over Canada.
The red and white will look to earn their first win of the 2020 rivalry series at the sold out they Save on Foods Memorial Centre tonight. Both teams will also play on Wednesday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, before shifting to Anaheim for the final game of the rivalry series on Saturday night at the Honda Center.
New coach for Canada
Troy Ryan will be looking to earn his first Rivalry Series win after taking over for Perry Pearn on Jan. 9. The 48-year-old Ryan had worked with Hockey Canada as an Assistant Coach alongside Pearn since 2016. Ryan will now have an opportunity to put a new spin on the senior national team.
”Our hope right now is that we play a little bit more offensively without sacrificing the defensive side of things,” Ryan explained to reporters following practice earlier this week. “As a program we don’t want to be in a situation getting comfortable with 3-2 losses and stuff like that. I’d rather lose in finding ways to win instead of just sitting back and playing defensively. We’re going to play a little bit more offence without sacrificing defensively.”
If you’re expecting to see a run and gun high octane Canadian offence in these next three games, that’s not going to happen. Ryan knows that it will take time to find the right offensive formula that works for Canada. The foundation within the team remains solid.
”I think he brings a lot of creativity,” Mélodie Daoust explained. “He lets the girls run the show basically. I love his mentality and how he works the game. You can tell that he’s played the game, he’s coached in it. He’s a creative coach and I think the girls are really receptive to it. It’s a really good change for the program.”
”He knows when to get down to seriousness,” Daoust added. “I feel like we play the best when we’re playing loose and I think he lets us do that. We know that hockey is a game of mistakes and if we make one out there, he’s not going to be on our case, and that helps us a lot.”
While it’s still early days, players are starting to notice a strong impact on and off the ice from Ryan. They’ve got a coach that motivates them, and wants to get the best out of them. Having that confidence can put you in the best possible situation to succeed.
”He’s really respected here,” Emerance Maschmeyer said. “He brings a calm presence and says the right things when needed. He has a lot of experience and has been through all of our ups and downs, and those little moments in between. He understands what we need to win and how we need to be on the ice and away from the rink.
He’s not someone that’s going to yell at the team and have to motivate that way,” Maschmeyer revealed. “He’s one of those coaches you just don’t want to disappoint, it shows that he has our respect. We want to play as best as we can for him and the girls.”
You can see that players are enjoying being at the rink. Nobody is holding their stick too tight, shoulders aren’t slumped, and there’s no negative vibes. The outlook remains strong, and that could be a recipe to help Canada bounce back in the rivalry series.
Nova Scotia’s, Blayre Turnbull believes in the benefits of a close-knit, upbeat team.
”It’s obviously a lot of fun to get together with this group and to be able to have productive practices where we’re all so loose and having fun,” Turnbull said. “I think that goes a long way in building our team chemistry.”
Canada has a wealth of riches in net with Maschmeyer, Geneviève Lacasse, and the star of the 3-on-3 game at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, Ann-Renée Desbiens.
If there’s a position that Canada is locked in with talent, it’s in between the pipes. All three of Canada’s goalies have the ability to shine and put on a show when called upon. Choosing which shot-stopper earns the nod in net is a good problem to have for Ryan.
”All three of them, I couldn’t be anymore confident in all three,” Ryan explained. “We’ve gone with different combinations in every event. We can play any of them at any time. Any of them give us an opportunity to win.”
While the competition in net remains strong, all three goalies get a long well. They all want to see each other do well for Canada. The 25-year-old Maschmeyer knows she has to be at her best, because there are two other goalies playing at an equally high level.
”Right now we’re all kind of playing and we’re pushing each other every single day,” Maschmeyer said. “That changes all the time and that’s pretty special. There’s that many high calibre goalies in Canada and it’s fun for me personally. I get to go on the ice everyday and compete. The unknown and not knowing where you stand. It’s a positive thing, it keeps you working hard.”
Canada and the U.S. bring out the best in each other, and that usually results in high flying action with plenty of chances at both ends of the rink. Knowing that there is a reliable goalie behind you in case of an out numbered attack can make all the difference. As Canada looks to play a quicker brand of offence, having confidence in net is vital.
”The group is super confident in all three of our goaltenders,” Turnbull said. “We know that no matter who is in net or what’s on the line. Whatever goalie is playing is going to be on and we can trust that if we have a defensive breakdown, they’re going to be there to stop the puck for us. It’s something that we’re really fortunate for.”
This has been an issue for Canada. If you can stop Marie-Philip Poulin and Daoust, you likely have a stronger chance of coming away with a victory. Canada knows they rely on their dynamic duo too often. If Canada is going to be successful in the rivalry series and at the World Championships in March, they need more scoring.
”It’s really important,” Turnbull admitted. “Especially in games against the U.S. where it’s really tight. Our first line of Pou and Melo, they’re the ones that score a lot of our goals. If we’re able to produce secondary scoring from our other lines, we should be in a really good position.”
All four lines have the ability to produce timely goals. If the top line is shut-down, Canada needs another individual to pick up offensive production.
A Valleyfield, Quebec native feels the quality is there no matter who gets the call.
”I just think every line is really important on this team,” Daoust said. “No matter what you’re bringing. All four lines can put the puck on net and score some big goals for us. We just need to play our game, play together, and things will go well.”
Canada will be hoping things go more than well as they renew acquaintances with USA Hockey. All-Star weekend is over, friendships are on the back burner, and Canada is ready to show that they can take back the rivalry series.