Never get too high. Never get too low. That’s been the theme for the United States team as they prepared for the 2015 IIHF Women’s U18 World Championship.
The Americans were able to ride the emotion of a soldout HarborCenter crowd in Buffalo, N.Y., Monday night, earning a 2-1 shootout win over Canada on the opening day of preliminary round games.
Jincy Dunne and Abby Roque scored in the shootout while Kaitlin Burt stopped two Canadian attempts to give the U.S. the opening win.
“We talked to the kids after and said this is a great way to start however this isn’t the goal,” U.S. coach Joel Johnson said. “It just sets us up hopefully to be in a position to go to the medal round and that’s our focus.”
It was Grace Bizal who opened the scoring, snapping home a crisp pass from Caitrin Lonergan from the right faceoff circle 5:06 into the game for a 1-0 U.S. lead.
The Americans had several other prime scoring chances through the first and second periods, including going 0-for-5 on the power play, but Canadian goaltender Marlene Boissonnault got stronger as the game wore on and the U.S. couldn’t find a groove with the extra skater.
“We’d like to score more,” Johnson quipped when asked what he’d like to see improve on the power play. “I think early in the game we did a good job. We had a couple great chances. In the second period we had some power play opportunities and I think Canada did a great job. You tip your cap to them. They made some adjustments. We’ll go back and look at the film. I just think we need to shoot the puck a little bit more, try to generate shots and shots create chaos and maybe some other chances open up from there.”
Sarah Potomak tied the game for Canada, taking advantage of an aggressive forecheck to beat Burt with 10:59 left in the third.
Burt then made a big glove save a few seconds later on a shot from Lindsay Agnew to keep it a 1-1 game.
“To me the turning point of the game is after Canada tied it up, we turned it over and she stoned somebody from the slot,” Johnson said. “To me that settled us down to be honest with you. We weren’t panicked on the bench but we weren’t playing really well. Canada was tilting the ice a little bit and I thought that save was the difference.”
The teams played to a 1-1 tie through three periods and a five-minute overtime.
In the best-of-three shootout Dunne and Roque scored while Burt stopped the first two shots. Characterized as an overtime win in the tournament format, the US gets one point and trails Russia in Group A who opened with a three-point regulation win over the Czech Republic. Canada gets one point for the OT loss.
“You’ve got to keep yourself relaxed,” Burt said of approaching the shootout. “I think confidence is really key in being a goaltender. I think that’s what separates the elite goaltenders. You try to be as confident as possible try to challenge them as much as possible.”
The U.S. plays its second preliminary game at 7 p.m. Tuesday against the Czech Republic which dropped its opener to Russia, 3-1.