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Canada's women's hockey team holds off U.S. in exhibition

The Canadian Press

10/18/2013 12:56:03 AM

BOISBRIAND, Que. -- Charline Labonte couldn't have asked for a better homecoming.

The Boisbriand, Que., native got the start in net in her hometown on Thursday night, where the Canadian women's hockey team defeated the United States 6-3 in pre-Olympic action.

"It's incredible," said Labonte. "I couldn't have asked for more. To bring the Canadian team here against the Americans a I knew people would answer the call. We immediately felt their support.

"I couldn't have asked for anything better. It was worthy of Boisbriand."

Labonte allowed three goals on 24 shots on the night.

The game was the second of six encounters between the teams before the start of the Olympic Games in Sochi in February.

The Canadians took the first game -- last Saturday in Burlington, Vt. -- 3-2. The game ended in brawl when a U.S. player ran into Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados late in the third period.

Veteran Hayley Wickenheiser, who's been a member of Canada's women's team since 1994 when she was only 15 years old, scored two goals on the night.

Wickenheiser believed her team responded well to early pressure by the Americans.

"We came out really strong and we had a great start and a lot of energy," said Wickenheiser. "They tried to take some physical liberties early on and they got away with a few things early in the game. But then we came back and we just played a pretty physical game."

Wickenheiser, who is contemplating retirement at the end of the Sochi Games, is currently at the heart of a captaincy debate ahead of the Olympics.

Canada's head coach Dan Church has yet to decide if Wickenheiser will don the "C" in Russia. Church is also considering Jayna Hefford or Caroline Ouellette -- who both also scored in Thursday's victory -- for the captain's title.

"Hayley's one of our leaders," said Church. "We decided in the first part of the season to grow our leadership within the team. That's important. We need a team full of more leaders as we move towards Sochi.

"It's all part of the master plan as we move through the next few months."

Rebecca Johnston, who also scored twice on the night, opened the high-scoring affair with her first goal of this exhibition series at 8:59 of the first period.

Haley Irwin started the play, patiently holding the puck for several seconds in the American zone before firing on net. Johnston jumped on the rebound.

"I was at the right place at the right time," said Johnston. "It kind of popped out right at me and I just shot it quickly."

Wickenheiser doubled the Canadians' lead less than a minute later while playing short handed.

Brianna Decker got one back for the Americans before Wickenheiser put her second of the game past a helpless Jessie Vetter on a 5-on-3 power play.

Johnston scored her second of the game, the eventual game-winner, early in the second period. Johnston was behind the net when she scored, banking a pass off a defender's skate and into the net.

Ouellette also scored mid-way through the second period to put the Canadians up 5-1.

Jocelyne Lamoureux and Kendall Coyne scored consolation goals for the U.S., before Hefford's back-handed goal quelled any attempt at a comeback at 15:47 of the third period.

Vetter, who started in net for the Americans, made 10 saves in the first period. She was replaced by Molly Schaus, who stopped seven of 10 shots she faced. U.S.A. outshot Canada 24-23 overall.

Canada is the three-time defending Olympic champion. Two of those victories, in 2002 and 2010, came against the Americans.

Canada and the U.S. face off again in pre-Olympic action on Dec. 12 in Calgary.