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Canada defeats U.S. in women's hockey to renew classic Olympic rivalry in Beijing

Team USA's Alexandra Carpenter skates with the puck during the women's preliminary round of the Winter Olympics ice hockey competition between the U.S. and Canada on Tuesday.
Anthony Wallace
/
AFP via Getty Images
Team USA's Alexandra Carpenter skates with the puck during the women's preliminary round of the Winter Olympics ice hockey competition between the U.S. and Canada on Tuesday.

BEIJING — A classic Olympic rivalry between North American neighbors did not disappoint at the 2022 Games. While Canada won 4-2 in preliminary group play over the U.S. in women's hockey, it's just a precursor to the more important medal rounds for these hockey powerhouses.

Since the women's sport was introduced at the Olympics in 1998, these two countries are the only ones to have won gold. In fact, they have met in every final (except one) with Canada holding a 3-2 edge. But coming into these Olympics, the U.S. is the defending champion, having beaten Canada in the gold medal match at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.

With that loss fresh in their minds, Canada came out fast — scoring first in the opening period. The U.S. would tie it up in the second and pull ahead two minutes later to lead 2-1. But Canada surged from that point, scoring three straight goals to seal the victory.

"It's one of the biggest rivalries in sports and every time we go in against them we want to make a statement and show them that they don't belong on the ice with us," said Canadian forward Natalie Spooner.

Team USA was aggressive on offense, taking 53 shots (twice as many as Canada). "We had a lot of offensive zone time and generated a lot of shots. But shots don't win games, goals do. We ended up on the wrong side of the goal scoring," said U.S. coach Joel Johnson.

With the result, both teams advance to the quarterfinals and likely another clash in the medal rounds.

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Canada's goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens (center) tries to save the goal during Tuesday's group play match between the U.S. and Canada at the Beijing Games.
Anthony Wallace / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
Canada's goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens (center) tries to save the goal during Tuesday's group play match between the U.S. and Canada at the Beijing Games.

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.