United States beats Canada to open Rivalry Series

Hilary Knight celebrates. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

LONDON, Ont. — Canadian women’s coach Perry Pearn said there’s plenty of work to do before April’s world championships in Finland after his team was on the wrong end of a 1-0 score Tuesday night.

U.S goalie Alex Rigsby made 33 saves and Hilary Knight scored as the United States earned the tough victory over Canada in the opener of a three-game Rivalry Series between the two bitter foes.

"We said our approach to this series is we’re going to use it to help us get better for the world championships," Pearn said.

"We skated pretty hard in the past two days and I think that was part of the plan. Maybe we’re a little bit rusty, but we tried to put together a group that had a little bit of chemistry from the (Canadian Women’s Hockey League). A quick shot here, a rebound there away from tying the game or potentially winning it."

He noted consistency was an issue from period to period.

"The first 15 minutes of the first period and I thought probably the last 12 minutes of the third period we kind of had them on their heels, unfortunately we had a bit of a bad shift, the second-to-last shift of the game … but other than that I thought we had the best of the play and controlled the opportunities."

Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin said the raucous pro-Canadian crowd of 9,036 at Budweiser Gardens was inspirational.

"It was amazing, to be honest. When you hear the crowd going so loud you can’t even hear the coach talk between breaks, it just shows the support."

The pace was quick from the opening faceoff through the end of the first period and, while the play was fairly even, Canada enjoyed the best of the scoring opportunities.

The closest the Canadians came to taking a lead was when Blayre Turnbull snuck behind the U.S. defence and cut in on Rigsby from the right face-off circle. Rigsby made a sprawling save to keep the game scoreless.

Tempers flared in front of the Canadian net as time was running out. The result was minor penalties to both teams, leaving them to close out the period playing 4-on-4.

The number of quality scoring chances dwindled in the middle frame. The checking was closer and much of the play took place in the centre ice area and along the boards.

The deadlock was finally broken when Knight poked a rebound behind Canadian goalie Emerance Maschmeyer with 1:40 left in the period.

Hannah Brandt and Savannah Harmon picked up the assists.

The Americans continued their strong defence in the third period as Canada was relentless in pursuit of the tying goal.

Rigsby was solid throughout and superb when she had to be.

U.S. forward Kendall Coyne Schofield, who made headlines at the recent NHL all-star game when she competed in the fastest skater competition, said being on such a stage is beneficial for women’s hockey.

"The NHL has a huge platform. That’s why we want to play one league under the NHL shield. It shows the platform that they have for us and they always say hockey is for everyone and they exemplified that a couple of weeks ago."

Knight credited her teammates for her second-period winner.

"We had a lot of girls skating in front of the net, so it was literally a puck that just bounced in my direction, but obviously all the work was done on the front end in order for me to get that opportunity."

The Americans have beaten the Canadian women eight of the past 10 times at major tournaments. Of those 10 games, there was a difference of more than two goals only twice. Six of the games were decided in overtime or a shootout.

Both teams featured 14 players from the 2018 Olympic teams played in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The series continues Feb. 14 in Toronto and concludes Feb. 17 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

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