If Team USA women’s hockey is looking for silver linings, there were a few despite its 4-2 loss in its Group A finale at the 2022 Winter Olympics to Canada early Tuesday morning.
The Americans outshot Canada — the No. 2 team in the world only behind Team USA — 53-27 and monopolized play for the majority of the game. But Canadian netminder Ann-Renée Desbiens was superb, keeping 51 of those attempts out of her net.
That’s about where any positivity ends.
Now Canada is the No. 1 seed in the women’s hockey tournament headed toward the quarterfinals, which begin on Friday. Meanwhile, the United States is No. 2 and on the opposite side of the bracket — meaning they are on a collision course with their rivals from the North in the gold medal game yet again.
The two countries have squared off against each other for the gold medal at five of the previous six Winter Olympics with the United States winning it all most recently in Pyeongchang four years ago. But that’s ancient history for a team that realizes that it has to up its game even further to get past Canada.
“Shots don’t win games,” American head coach Joel Johnson said (h/t USA Today). “Goals do. We’ve got to find a way to create different, higher-quality scoring chances if we expect to win a game like this.”
“It’s just numbers,” veteran forward Hillary Knight added. “You got to put more on net and put yourself in a better position to have Grade-A scoring opportunities and maybe crack that perimeter a little bit better.”
Knight and the United States’ attack were able to get plenty of chances on net, but from which they came is leaving plenty to be desired. Offensive momentum was generated from the blue line, which didn’t provide much of a challenge for the Canadian defense to preserve their lead in the third period despite being outshot 21-6 by the Americans.
“When we shoot from the top, they’ve got three, four goaltenders in there,” Johnson said. “Only one of them is wearing pads, but they’re all doing the same thing.”
They have a little over a week to figure that out. The gold medal game is scheduled for Feb. 17 and both countries are overwhelming favorites to be there.