The 2022-23 Rivalry Series concludes this week with two games on Monday and Wednesday in Quebec, Canada, to decide a winner of the seven-game series. The series started back in mid-November with games in Kelowna and Kamloops, British Columbia, and Seattle before restarting in December with games in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
The U.S. has a 3-2 lead in the series heading into Monday night’s game in Trois-Rivieres, after taking the first three games of the series 4-3 (SO), 2-1, and 4-2. One more win will secure the overall series victory.
In Seattle on Nov. 20, a record-setting crowd of 14,551 fans packed Climate Pledge Arena, home of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, to see Team USA win their third-straight game against Canada. It was the highest attendance on U.S. soil in Women’s National Team history. Knight was the star of the game, scoring twice to lead the Americans to a 4-2 win and their first three-game win streak over Canada since 2019.
A month later, the teams met up in Henderson, Nevada. The U.S. held Canada to just 16 shots on goal and out-shot them 13-2 in the third but could not equalize and the Canadians earned their first win of the series 3-2. Amanda Kessel and Knight scored for the Americans in the loss.
In Los Angeles two days later, the teams took the ice in the home of the Los Angeles Kings. California native Cayla Barnes put the U.S. up 1-0 after the first, but Canada scored twice in the second to give them a 2-1 lead. Taylor Heise’s shot from the faceoff dot tied the game and forced overtime, but Canada scored midway through the extra period and earned the 3-2 win.
As Team USA approaches the final two games, forward Hannah Brandt said the team is simply focusing on the first game, and not necessarily on winning the series.
“We take it one game at a time,” she said. “We’ll try to play our best game Monday and then we’ll try to do it again Wednesday. I don't think we're really thinking about the end result of the series right now. We're just really focused on each game and playing well as a team.”
Ultimately, this series is about showcasing the top women’s talent in North America while giving each national team the chance to learn and grow in the months between world championships and years between the Olympics.
These games offer the opportunity to play in front of bigger crowds in games where the outcome is always up in the air until the final whistle.
With the exception of game three, all games of the Rivalry Series have been decided by one score, with the deciding tally coming in either the third period or the shootout.
That’s what makes them exciting, Jincy Dunne said. She explained that while the goal is always to win, the games give Team USA an opportunity to focus on what the team has already done well, study Canada’s tendencies, and dial in during practices.
“The only way to get better is to play the best,” she said. “The goal coming in is to win, but you have to break that down into smaller goals. What's attainable in this moment? What's the focus right now? Eventually, as you do those little things well and you’re going to hit that larger goal.”
Seven games against their rivals in the course of four months is a unique situation these players relish.
Consistently being in an environment where they can hone their skills, create a team identity and play against top tier competition is something that Dunne said she and her teammates do not take for granted.
“I get to play hockey for a living. That’s pretty incredible,” she said. “The fact that it’s the USA jersey makes it super special. I’m not a rookie anymore, but I’m still learning. There is a standard of excellence that you need to hold yourself to while also giving yourself grace to continue to learn and get better.”
While many of the players on both sides skate as teammates with their professional teams when they aren’t with their national teams, Brandt said it’s easier than most people think to transition from being teammates with members of the Canadian national team to playing against them.
“Once we put our jerseys on, it's game on and we don't have any friends over there,” she said. “Any time we go against Canada, we want to win. We want to win every single battle. We never want to let them have any sort of advantage.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.