Kessel leads U.S. to women’s gold over Canada

World championship goes back to host's long-time rivals

KANATA, Ont.— Amanda Kessel scored the game winner to help the United States defeat Canada 3-2 and claim its fifth-ever gold medal at the World Women’s Hockey Championship.

Kessel scored off the rush early in the third period with an assist from goalie Jessie Vetter, to give the Americans the lead.

With just 3:09 gone in the frame, Kessel, who was named Player of the Game for the U.S., wired a hard wrist shot from the right dot over Shannon Szabados’s shoulder.

A rowdy crowd of 13,776 was in attendance, but American captain Julie Chu said they had a positive effect on her teammates.

“We played against a crowd that was quite hostile in a great way,” said Chu, who usually plays for the Montreal Stars in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. “Being able to feel that pressure, they were incredible out there.”

The Canadians were never able to mount a solid comeback attempt as they were outshot 30-16 in the match, including only two shots in the second period.

“Obviously, 16 shots isn’t enough to beat a good team and a good goaltender,” said Canadian head coach Dan Church. “But I felt tonight they were the better team in almost every aspect of the game. I have to give them full credit.”

Defenceman Courtney Birchard opened the scoring up for Canada at 9:50 of the first period. Carrying the puck down the right wing, Birchard took a hard slap slot that beat Vetter glove side.

The Americans responded early in the second period with a highlight-reel goal on a 2-on-1 rush from Brianna Decker.

Canada was outshot 12-8 in the first period, but controlled the play for much of the 20 minutes. The second period was a different story, with Canada taking several bad penalties and giving up a goal on a 5-on-3.

With forwards Rebecca Johnston and Hayley Wickenheiser in the penalty box for bodychecking, Megan Bozek one-timed it past Szabados to give the United States a 2-1 lead.

“We got ourselves into [penalty] trouble by getting beat 1-on-1 a lot of times and the forwards did a poor job at closing the gap with their forwards and helping out on the backcheck,” said forward Caroline Ouellette. “They have some amazing talent and the reality is that their first line outplayed us.”

Just over three minutes later, this time with Decker in the box, Canada equalized with a power-play goal of its own.

Seven seconds into Decker’s bodychecking penalty, wired a hard shot past Vetter to make it 2-2.

The crowd’s relief was palpable, as Canada spent most of the second period hemmed in their own zone.

However, a combination of strong goaltending from Vetter and sharp overall defence from the Americans proved too much for the Canadians, who failed to defend their title from the previous year.

“I feel like it’s revenge,” says Kessel. “We got beat on our home soil last year and to come into Canada and win a gold medal, it’s unbelievable.”

In the post-game ceremony, Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin was named Tournament MVP. Poulin finished with six goals and six assists in five games played.

Earlier in the day, Russia defeated Finland 2-0 to win only their second-ever medal at the Women’s World Championship. Their first, also a bronze, came in 2001.