ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Given the tight rivalry between the United States and Canada's women's hockey teams, it seemed fitting that Saturday's game at Xcel Energy Center was decided by a shootout. After three periods of tense, tight hockey between the two best teams in the world, Hilary Knight's shootout goal gave the U.S. a 3-2 victory and its third victory in a row over its archrival during its pre-Olympic tour.
The U.S. took a 2-0 lead on a first-period goal by Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter's power-play goal with nine seconds remaining in the second period. Canada rallied with a dominant third period, holding the Americans without a shot on goal for the first 12 minutes, 42 seconds and getting goals from Meghan Agosta-Marciano and Marie-Philip Poulin in a 74-second span midway through the period.
Goaltender Jessie Vetter stopped 37 shots for the U.S., including all three of Canada's attempts in the shootout. Charline Labonte had 27 saves for Canada. The two teams play Monday in Toronto for the final time before the Olympics. The U.S. will announce its final Olympic roster of 21 players on Wednesday during the NHL's Winter Classic.
The game was Canada's second under the command of coach Kevin Dineen, who took over after Dan Church's sudden resignation on Dec. 12. The reasons for Church's departure have not been explained, though Church said he believed others did not have confidence in his ability to lead the team to the Olympic gold that is considered a birthright in the birthplace of hockey. Dineen is a former NHL player who was coaching the Florida Panthers until he was fired in November.
The U.S. still must cut two skaters from the current pool of 23. Saturday, coach Katey Stone played 10 forwards and seven defensemen in the final audition on American ice. The current roster includes eight defensemen and 12 forwards, though Stone said she will take the 18 best skaters regardless of position.
Gophers forward Amanda Kessel, who has not played any international games this season because of a lower-body injury, sat out again Saturday. The other four players with Minnesota connections -- former Gophers Gigi Marvin, Megan Bozek, Anne Schleper and current Gopher Lee Stecklein -- were in the lineup.
The U.S. team is built on speed, and it showed through the first two periods Saturday. The younger Americans consistently beat Canada to loose pucks and limited its quality scoring chances.
The third line of Hilary Knight, Stack and Carpenter was particularly effective against a close-checking Canadian defense that gave little ground in the first period. The U.S. spent much of the first 10 minutes killing three penalties -- including a two-man disadvantage that lasted for 1:39 -- before Stack gave it the lead at 13:54.
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