It's Another USA-Canada Showdown at WWC 2023
By Scott Lowe - MYHockeyRankings.com
The most-anticipated preliminary-round game of the 2023 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship takes place Monday when unbeaten Canada and the United States meet at the CAA Centre in Brampton, Ontario, with top seed for Group on the line as usual. The game faces off at 7 p.m. Eastern and can be seen all over North America on NHL Network, TSN and RDS.
Canada and the United States have displayed their usual dominance at this WWC, going a combined 6-0 so far and outscoring their opponents by a 36-5 margin. The Americans have outscored the Canadians thus far, 22-14, but Canada has surrendered just one goal. Tiebreaking rules have the U.S. holding Group A’s top spot heading into the game with a goal differential of plus-18 after outscoring its foes, 22-4. Canada has outscored its opponents by a 14-1 margin.
These numbers are eerily similar to those posted by the two teams heading into their opening-round matchup last summer at the most recent WWC in Denmark.
Canada sprinted to a 2-0 first-period lead in that contest only to see the U.S. rally with five unanswered goals en route to a 5-2 victory. Lacey Eden sniped what turned out to the game-winning goal almost four minutes into the third period as five different Americans scored. Megan Keller and Savannah Harmon each finished with two points as the only multiple-point scorers for the U.S., and Nicole Hensley made 26 saves to earn the win in goal.
Canada rebounded to win the most-important game of the 2022 WWC, however, capturing the gold medal with a 2-1 victory in the finals. All three goals were scored in the second period that day, with Brianne Jenner striking twice to stake the Canadians to a 2-1 lead before Abby Roque responded to cut the margin to one entering the final frame. Yankee-killer Ann-Renee Despiens turned aside 20 of the 21 shots she faced as Canada held on for the gold in a tight-checking game that featured only 40 total shots on goal.
That win gave the Canadians to a second-straight World Championship gold medal on the heels of a stretch during which the U.S. had won Olympic and WWC gold, perhaps providing a wakeup call for the nation’s neighbors to the north. Canada had already rebounded to capture the gold medal at the February 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. With the conclusion of the 2022 WWC, Canada had won 10 of the previous 13 recent meetings between the two international hockey powers, perhaps forcing the Americans to add a little more youth and speed to their lineup heading into the 2023 tournament.
The two teams met seven times in their annual Rivalry Series between November 2022 and February 2023, with the U.S. winning the first-three games and Canada rallying to capture the final four. Two of those seven games required overtime, with one of those ending in a shootout, and four were decided by a single goal. The Canadians were unusually dominant in the final two contests, winning those games by a combined margin of 10-1.
So, including the 2022-23 Rivalry Series, Canada owns a 14-6 advantage over the U.S. in the last 20 meetings between the two nations. Despite the lopsided win-loss numbers during that span, most of those games could have gone either way. Twelve of those 20 contests were decided by a single goal, with six requiring overtime to determine a winner.
Just like in Denmark, the United States will look to make a statement in Monday’s Group A battle, but maybe this time the Americans will focus more on figuring out which players can give them the best chance of winning a potential gold-medal game rematch instead of focusing so much on a preliminary-round victory. Finishing first in the group does have its advantages, however, as the top seed likely would avoid a semifinal matchup against Finland, the third-best team in the world by a substantial margin.
The Finns have rolled through the opening round in Group B thus far, posting a 3-0 record while outscoring their opponents, 21-3. They conclude pool play earlier Monday against a team from Hungary that had posted a 1-1 record.
While the U.S. and Canadian rosters are loaded with veteran talent and the familiar faces that have led their nations on the ice for many years, it’s the younger players who have stepped up offensively thus far in this year’s WWC. Defender Caroline Harvey leads the Americans in scoring with two goals and four assists, while Taylor Heise has added 1-5-6. Well-known vets Alex Carpenter and Hilary Knight aren’t far behind, each having notched 2-3-5, the exact numbers that have been posted by younger stars Abbey Murphy and Roque.
Budding superstar and Princeton University standout Sarah Fillier, who is seasoned well beyond her years at this point, leads Canada with 3-2-5, followed by Blayre Turnbull with 1-4-5, Sarah Nurse with 2-2-4 and “Captain Canada” Marie-Philip Poulin with 2-2-4. Poulin recorded her 100th career WWC goal earlier in the tournament, and to fans of U.S. hockey it feels like at least 90 of those have come in key situations vs. the Americans.
As always, though, you can throw all those numbers out the window when these two powerhouse rivals face off. It’s always can’t-miss TV, and Monday night’s matchup should be no different.
Group A Standings
USA – 9 PTS (3W 0L 22 GF 4 GA)
CAN – 9 PTS (3W 0L 14 GF 1 GA)
CZE - 2 PTS (1OTW 2L 5 GF 12 GA)
JPN – 1 PT (0W 2L 1OTL 2 GF 14 GA)
SUI – 0 PTS (0W 2L 1 GF 13 GA)
Group B Standings
FIN – 9 PTS (3W 0L 21 GF 3 GA)
GER – 6 PTS (2W 1L 9 GF 5 GA)
SWE – 3 PTS (1W 2L 10 GF 12 GA)
HUN – 3 PTS (1W 1L 6 GF 8 GA)
France – 0 PTS (0W 3L 3 GF 21 GA)