The U.S. and Canadian women's national teams played their second of two matchups on Sunday afternoon at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in front of another sold-out crowd. Team Canada won by a score of 5-3. Thoughts, musings and observations from the game...
- While these games were technically billed as "exhibition," they were actually as competitive as it gets. These teams have one of the best rivalries in all of sports. Not just hockey. ALL of sports. And it showed this weekend.
Talking with some of the Penguins players about what stands out the most about the women's game, they all said the speed and the skill is obvious, but the physicality is evident as well. Today's matchup epitomized that, with the teams combining for 24 penalties - 12 each - and four of the eight goals being scored on the power play as a result. I can only imagine how much the intensity will get ratcheted up for the five-game Rivalry Series that is set for December 2019 through January 2020.
- The young stars shined for Canada this weekend. Forward Emily Clark, who turns 24 later this month, was the No. 1 star of the game after scoring a hat trick to lead Canada past the U.S.
"It feels a little surreal right now because it's not typically my role," Clark said with a laugh after the game. "I like to work hard and bump and stuff. Obviously super excited to get rewarded like that, but way more excited to come out with the win. Really proud of us for coming out with the win, but also how we came out with it. Showed a lot of character."
What was especially impressive about Clark's day was that she scored one goal at even-strength, one goal on the power play and one goal shorthanded.
"It was awesome," Team Canada assistant coach Troy Ryan said of Clark, who won the national championship as a senior this past spring with the University of Wisconsin. "The best thing about it is scoring three goals like that, but doing it the right way. She battled hard. That's sort of what you expect from her. That's the way she plays."
Clark's performance came after 23-year-old forward Victoria Bach scored twice in Canada's 4-1 win on Friday. The future is certainly bright for Team Canada as they're working to get on the right side of the rivalry after some heartbreaking losses to Team USA.
- Canada started the game strong, getting out to a 3-0 lead after the first period. Ryan called it their best period of the weekend, saying there's a lot that they can build on.
While the Americans finished the game strong, scoring all three of their goals in the final frame and cutting Canada's lead to 4-3 at one point, they were never able to fully recover from their lackluster start.
"Every time we have the opportunity to get together, we need to play with that excitement and I don't think we brought that excitement from the start," said Team USA captain Kendall Coyne, who finished with a goal and an assist. "Obviously Canada capitalized on those moments we didn't come out. We didn't start on time. We need to take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror. When we get the next opportunity to get together, we have to be better."