ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Women’s National Team defeated Canada, 3-2, in a shootout this afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center. Hilary Knight (Sun Valley, Idaho) scored the decisive shootout goal and added a pair of assists to pace the team offensively. Goaltender Jessie Vetter (Cottage Grove, Wis.) made 37 saves and turned aside all three Canadian shootout attempts.
"We didn’t have the same intensity as before the break but we started getting our legs back and found a way to win,” said Katey Stone, head coach of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team. “Fortunately, Jessie was a rock back there and she settled things down when we really needed it.”
Kelli Stack (Brooklyn Heights, Ohio) opened the scoring for Team USA at the 13:54 of the first period when Knight’s wrap-around attempt was stopped by Canadian goaltender Charline Labonte but the rebound came to Stack who was left alone in the slot with an open net.
With nine seconds remaining in the second period, Alex Carpenter (North Reading, Mass.) fought off a defender and picked up a rebound to score a power play goal and make it 2-0.
Canada would tie the score, 2-2, with a pair of goals in the third period but after a scoreless overtime, the U.S. would prevail in the shootout with Knight scoring the lone tally and Vetter denying three Canadian shooters in front of 9,012 fans in attendance.
The win was Team USA’s third consecutive victory over Canada, knotting the rivals’ head-to-head pre-Olympic tour record at three wins apiece. The two teams will face each other at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, on Monday at 7 p.m. ET for the final time before the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Many sports across the board have begun to see a decline in their number of officials. USA Hockey is no different, with numbers lagging slightly behind player growth.
With that in mind, USA Hockey has made a particularly concerted effort over the last couple of years to incentivize officials to stick around.
Not surprisingly that was the main topic discussed at the annual USA Hockey's Winter Meetings, according to National Referee-in-Chief Dave LaBuda.
“I'd say the overriding tone of the meeting was us talking about retention and trying to come up with ways in which to address that particular issue,” LaBuda said. “It's a very complex situation. There are a number of different factors that go into why an official decides not to stay registered. We can only address a certain number of those factors and the rest we have to hope fix themselves in some way.”
In an effort to be proactive, USA Hockey has implemented sweeping change in the registration process for existing officials.
It started by revamping the registration fees, and while some of the other minutiae is rather hard to digest, the most notable change is the reduction of registration requirements for officials that reach the Level 3 or Level 4 status.
As soon as an official has obtained Level 3 or Level 4 status for three consecutive years, they will become eligible to apply for tenured status. In order to attain that tenured status, officials must also attend what USA Hockey is calling an advanced officiating symposium.
“It's designed to encourage people to continue their level of registration and to advance to a higher level of registration,” LaBuda said. “Just getting them to climb that ladder and try to attain the highest level of registration will make them better officials, and in turn, improve the game.”
Essentially, USA Hockey wants to send a message to its officials, making it clear that their time is important to the organization.
“We understand that people's time nowadays is becoming tighter and tighter,” LaBuda said. “We wanted to make sure that we made the entire process as efficient as possible from a time standpoint.”
It seems to be working so far as USA Hockey has been able to stabilize its registration numbers over the last few years, according to LaBuda.
“We are starting to see some movement in that retention area,” LaBuda said. “It seems like every sport is experiencing a critical loss of officials to work their sport. We are hoping that these changes in the registration process will help us retain more officials down the road. It’s been a positive step in the right direction so far.”