Sports

Canada routs US 6-1, sweeps final 4 games to claim 2nd straight Rivalry Series

ST. PAUL, Minn. — (AP) — Natalie Spooner and Emma Maltais each scored twice, Ann-Renée Desbiens made 24 saves and Canada routed the United States 6-1 on Sunday in the decisive seventh game of the Rivalry Series.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Ashton Bell also scored for Canada and Sarah Nurse added three assists. It’s the second straight Rivalry Series in which the United States won the first three games, only to see Canada storm back and win four straight.

“I think it speaks volumes to how much we’re sticking to our game, even when we’re down and facing adversity,” Maltais said. “I think today it showed a lot of character and we’re just going to keep moving forward.”

The series kicked off in November with two U.S. victories in Tempe, Arizona, and Los Angeles. The teams split a pair of games in Ontario in December, with Canada winning the fourth game in a shootout. Then, Canada won two straight last week in Saskatchewan.

“The Canada-U.S. games are always exciting games and the games you get up for,” Spooner said. "Obviously, knowing that we were down in the series, every game was do-or-die for us. Game 7, this was like our gold-medal game, our Super Bowl, so we were just excited for the game."

Grace Zumwinkle scored for the Americans. Nicole Hensley stopped 10 of 13 shots before being replaced midway thorough the game by Abbey Levy, who made six saves.

“It didn’t feel like the momentum ever once swung our way. But we have to earn that momentum swing and I don’t think we did that,” U.S. veteran Kendall Coyne Schofield said. “Any time you put on that red, white, and blue you’ve got to execute better.”

Canada opened the scoring on its first power play. Hensley stopped Spooner's shot and made a sprawling save at the left post to deny Brianne Jenner on the rebound. But Hensley failed to cover the puck and Spooner, in a scrum in front of the net, poked it home at 12:06 of the first period. It was the second goal in two games for Spooner, who leads the PWHL with seven goals.

The Americans suffered a big loss in the first period when star forward Taylor Heise was knocked out of the game with an upper body injury sustained while breaking up a Canadian scoring chance. Heise was able to skate off the ice but did not return.

“That’s going to be a tough one,” U.S. head coach John Wroblewski said. “You lose your (first-line center), your power-play catalyst for our first unit. It certainly had a factor in our special teams.”

Poulin made it 2-0 less than a minute into the second as the Canadians converted their second straight power play. Canada’s captain took a pass at the top of the left circle and sent a wrist shot over Hensley’s shoulder for her first goal of the series.

Midway through the second, Maltais caught up to a loose puck in the U.S. zone and found Bell trailing the play in the high slot. Bell scored off the pass, making it 3-0.

Zumwinkle took advantage of Desbiens' only mistake, scoring a short-handed goal. Desbiens skated out of her net to attempt to clear the puck, but Zumwinkle blocked the pass and won the race to the empty net.

Spooner pushed the lead back to three goals shortly after a power play expired, beating Levy with a wrist shot from the slot to make it 4-1 late in the second. Maltais scored her goals in the third period.

The teams will meet next at the IIHF Women's World Championship, scheduled for April 3-14 in Utica, New York. The U.S. will be defending its title, which it won last year after blowing a 3–0 lead in the Rivalry Series. Zumwinkle noted the similarity and expressed hope the pattern would repeat itself.

“Having the same outcome last year, and then winning gold in the World Championships last year," Zumwinkle said, "it’s writing on the wall, hopefully, for a better outcome next time.”

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports

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