ADLER, Russia — It wouldn’t be U.S-Canada in women’s hockey without controversy, and so it was Wednesday that Team Canada’s 3-2, first-round victory turned on a disputed goal.
With the Shayba Arena bulging with a standing room only crowd that included Team Canada men’s team captain Sidney Crosby for an early sneak preview of next week’s expected gold-medal final, Canada took 2-1 lead on a Hayley Wickenheiser goal that was headed through U.S. goalkeeper Jessie Vetter’s legs but not across the line before a referee’s whistle blew.
“I did hear the whistle blow before the puck went it,” U.S. coach Katey Stone said of the shot with 16:06 left in the third period.
A review was called. Wickenheiser, however, was unconcerned.
“I looked at (NBC rinkside reporter) Pierre McGuire and he knew right away,” she said.
Replays showed that Vetter could not hold Wickenheiser’s shot from the right wing and in lunging forward to scoop up the loose puck she hit it with her stick sending it sliding through her legs into the net. The goal stood.
“I just got up and celebrated when the puck crossed the line,” Wickenheiser said. “It doesn’t matter how they go in, sometimes it’s an ugly one.”
Although Canada gave up a goal with 65 seconds remaining, the two-time defending Olympic champions dominated the rest of a game that while lacking the brawl that marked the teams’ last meeting nevertheless bristled with intensity and was rocked with a physicality rarely seen in women’s hockey.
“I think it’s always intense, gold medal or not, no one wants to give an inch,” Wickenheiser said.
“It is exactly what we expected,” Canada coach Kevin Dineen said. “It was a one-goal game, a seesaw back and forth and certainly had momentum changing direction. I thought we were thoroughly outplayed until 10 minutes into the second period and then we got our stuff together and got moving in the third. It was typical U.S.-Canada hockey game and I would expect nothing else.”
The victory was especially important for Team Canada, which snapped a four-game losing streak to the Americans.
“But that’s in the past,” said Canada forward Meghan Acosta, who celebrated her 27th birthday with a pair of goals. “This is a new tournament. We’ve grown together as a team since then.”