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Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold

April 15, 2024, 6:14 PM ET [1 Comments]
Karine Hains
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Follow me @KarineHains for all updates about the Montreal Canadiens and women's hockey

It was a year to this day since Team USA rolled into Brampton for the Women’s World Championships and defeated Team Canada in the final in front of their fans. The 6-3 defeat didn’t stand well with Team Canada, Erin Ambrose even hung her silver medal on her door in Montreal, as if she needed to see it daily to be motivated for this year’s edition. Team Canada came to Utica determined to pay back Team USA in kind. Still, the shadow of the injury sustained by captain Marie-Philip Poulin on March 8 during a game between PWHL Montreal and PWHL Toronto loomed large.

When Canada started its tournament, Poulin was there, the captain didn’t want to miss a minute of the action. Head coach Troy Ryan and assistant coaches Kori Cheverie and Caroline Ouellette knew perfectly well she wouldn’t want to be scratched, so they let her play even though she didn’t look 100%. No one would argue that Poulin, even at 70%, is not better than plenty of players, but early in the tournament, she didn’t look quite right. She was tentative in her skating and turns and didn’t have her usual jump. This is probably why the coaches managed her ice time, using Poulin less than they usually did.

Even in the group stage game against Team Canada’s arched rival Team USA, she didn’t make much of an impact on the game…Until the overtime of the goalless game that is. Brianne Jenner fell deep in the American zone (perhaps a penalty would have been called for, but there was no call) and Team USA took off with the puck. It was a three-on-one attack which Poulin was caught defending on her own. She skated backward and looked hesitant to commit to one side or the other, and she ended up screening Ann-Renée Desbiens as Kristen Simms scored the game-winning goal. This is not how Poulin likes to make an impact on the game, and there is no doubt she told herself she would make up for it. Not that she hasn’t already done enough for Team Canada, but that’s just how she is.

After the preliminary round game between the two giants of the game turned out to be a goaltender duel, we wondered if we’d see a lot of offense in the final. We didn’t have to wonder for long as Canada came out of the gate with a knife between its collective teeth, ready to avenge both the loss in the preliminary round and the crushing defeat in last year’s final. The visitors dominated the first frame, testing Aerin Frankel 13 times while Ann-Renee Desbiens only received six shots. However, when both teams went back to the locker room, it was 1-1. Erin Ambrose had scored her first of the tournament to open the score and less than two minutes later, tournament MVP to be Laila Edwards equalized.

Less than four minutes into the second frame, Canada scored to get the lead back thanks to Julia Gosling who was skating in her first World Championship. Team USA decided to take over the period from that moment on. They put all kinds of pressure on Canada and Desbiens’ net catching up to the visitors in the shot department and pulling themselves level with a Megan Keller goal. Six minutes later, the pressure paid off, Alex Carpenter gave Team USA the lead for the first time and the Canadians’ confidence seemed to be shaky at best. With her team on the verge of panic, Marie-Philip Poulin stepped up and put a quick-release shot in the net behind Frankel to tie the game up once again. Then, Jocelyn Larocque was assessed a hooking penalty with 11 seconds left in the second before the buzzer mercifully went off.

Canada managed to kill the ill-timed penalty at the start of the third, but, unfortunately for Poulin, she was then sent to the box for two minutes for an illegal hit. While the call was arguable at best, the captain took her seat in the sin bin and watched on as American captain Hilary Knight capitalized on her penalty to give Team USA a 4-3 lead. Poulin looked annoyed, to say the least as she stepped back on the ice, but she didn’t let her disappointment or the fact she didn’t agree with the penalty take her focus away. She rolled up her sleeves, put on her work boots, and kept on going. Less than two minutes after the Knight goal, Emily Clark tied up the game thanks to Laura Stacey’s hard work by the boards.

With the score tied at 4-4 and less than eight minutes to go, who else than Poulin could put Canada back on top 5-4. It was Hilary Knight’s turn to look shocked at that play, for a second, she looked as if she was thinking “Not again”, but she put her game face back on in seconds. It took Team USA two and a half minutes to equalize as defender Caroline Harvey beat Desbiens for her country’s fifth goal.

After players, coaches, analysts, and fans alike had time to catch their breath, the puck dropped in the overtime period. Three minutes into the extra frame, Team USA was caught with an extra player on the ice. Canada’s power play, who hadn’t clicked all tournament long, picked the perfect time to wake up and youngster Danielle Serdachny pushed in the rebound from an Erin Ambrose shot to give Canada a 6-5 win.

Canada might not have been the best team through the tournament, but the Championship is won in the final, not in the preliminary round. They had to face some challenges, Poulin who was struggling to get back to her normal self coming back from an injury, a timid power play and Natalie Spooner and Sarah Nurse who had been on fire in the PWHL looked like they had lost their scoring touch. Still, the captain answered the call and inspired her team to pull off a fantastic performance when it mattered the most. Poulin led by example and showed once more why she is worthy of the “Captain Clutch” nickname, even though she hates it.

Renata Fast had a great tournament, she was everywhere on the ice doing whatever was called for at exactly the right time. Fast was named the best defender of the tournament and was also named to the Media All-Star Team. American Laila Edwards was named tournament MVP, while teammate Alex Carpenter who led the tournament in points was named best forward. Edwards and Carpenter also joined Caroline Harvey on the Media All-Star Team.

Now, it’s time for the players to head back to their respective teams and get back to the PWHL business. Each team has got five games left and nothing is set in stone yet. Toronto leads the pack, but if Spooner cools down, will they manage to keep the brilliant performances coming? New York and Boston are down in the standings, but they are far from down and out. Action resumes on Thursday and, on Saturday, Toronto will be facing Montreal at the Bell Centre when the attendance record could be broken.

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