Canada

‘We play that Canadian way.’ Adversity fuels women’s world hockey three-peat bid

After Monday night’s wild shootout victory over the United States, Canadian defender Jocelyne Larocque said her team “likes adversity” — and if that sounds corny, so be it.

“We come together and, honestly, I feel lucky wearing the Maple Leaf,” Larocque said after Jamie Lee Rattray’s winner in the ninth round of a shootout wrapped up a 4-3 victory and perfect 3-0 record in pool play at the women’s world hockey championship in Brampton.

There was plenty of adversity in Monday’s game before a raucous crowd at the CAA Centre, including the home side surrendering a two-goal lead in the final minute. The Hilary Knight marker that cut Canada’s lead to one was challenged, but while TV replays appeared to show the play was offside, the goal stood.

Then Amanda Kessel scored with 3.4 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, followed by an epic nine-round shootout in which Knight scored once and was denied twice. Canadian superstar Marie Philip-Poulin was also stopped twice.

“I know it sounds corny …. (but) we’re a group that likes challenges, that likes adversity, and then getting through it together,” said the 34-year-old Larocque, playing in her eighth world championship. “So, I think we can really build off that.

“We play our best when we’re smiling but focused. We play that Canadian way. That combo is deadly, and we are looking forward to the rest of the tournament.”

Larocque, from Ste. Anne, Man., plays a key role on a defence corps that has been tasked with improving the team’s defensive zone exits in particular. Every country at the worlds has improved when it comes to skill and speed, and the hosts — in the hunt for a third straight title — are working hard to stay a step ahead.

“A huge part of our game that we’re trying to add is being quick with transition, and I think our defence did a great job just keeping their heads up and getting the puck north,” said forward Sarah Fillier, who picked up a goal and an assist Monday and leads Canada with four goals and seven points. “And I think our forwards did a good job being open for that, too.”

Before those two late goals by the Americans, Canada had given up just two on 63 shots through almost nine periods of the tournament.

“All the teams played strong against us,” said Larocque, who is of Metis heritage and was the first Indigenous women’s hockey player to compete in the Olympics. “Really physical. It’s been a physical round robin, and I think every game we have gotten better and better.”

Next challenge: Thursday’s quarterfinals.

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