Canada and the USA played in the gold medal game of the Para Ice Hockey Women’s World Challenge Sunday evening in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The United States went undefeated in the round robin against Canada, Great Britain, and Team World. Canada lost only in that round to the Americans.
The stage was set between two rivals who frequently meet as the best teams in women’s para ice hockey.
The Americans immediately took possession at puck drop, driving deep into the Canadian end. Strong defensive pressure from Canadian captain Alanna Mah won back the puck behind her net, and the northerners stormed up the ice.
All ten players dug in hard, flying down the ice with determination. The Americans took back the park and quickly sent it towards the neutral zone. A miscommunication led to two Canadian players mishandling the puck at the offensive blue line, allowing it to slip behind them to waiting American attackers. Three blue shirts closed in on a lone Canadian defender who could do little to prevent the game’s opening goal.
The Canadiens rallied and tried to send pressure the other way but were stifled in their offensive end. The Americans looked to be setting up to challenge the Canadian net when a quick pass came to Katie Ladlie in the centre slot. She took a low shot through traffic that found its way through defenders, the goalie, and then back in the net.
American pressure was heavy, and it looked like Canada might be in for a long night. The Americans started a play in their own end while completing a line change. The US turned it over to Canadian Raphaëlle Tousignant at the red line, and she took off. Tousignant was all alone, with the American players still caught up in the change. She lifted a high shot into the back of the net.
The Americans reasserted themselves and set up in the Canadian end, peppering the net with shots, but goalie Tracey Arnold kept them at bay.
The United States won a draw in the Canadian end late in the first, after a quick time-out. Lera Doederlein took the puck around the back of the net and scored with a wraparound. Frustrations started to grow as players chipped at each other on faceoffs and in-between whistles. The play grew increasingly physical, and Canada took a penalty in the last two minutes of the period. The American’s capitalized and took a 4-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
The passion spilled over into the second period as both teams battled hard, with neither wanting to concede. The US chances kept coming, but the Canadian defence was locked down tight. Canada worked hard to break through the neutral zone, but the US net seemed impenetrable. The period ended scoreless, and the Americans took their three-goal lead into the third period.
Canada defended as a team unit, but the American offence was overwhelming. The puck barely seemed to leave that end of the ice. The Americans were held off until four and a half minutes remained when the insurance marker was scored. The Canadians put their hands to their head as the Americans finally capitalized on one of their many chances.
Though the score showed a clear victory for the Americans, the game was a grind, with the Canadians fighting all in until the final buzzer.
The United States of America remains at the top of international women’s para hockey, winning the gold medal at the first Para Ice Hockey Women’s World Challenge.