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O'Neill scores twice for Canada in win over Czechia at Women's Worlds

Canada celebrates Canada celebrates - The Canadian Press

UTICA, N.Y. — Kristin O'Neill's career-high, three-point game lifted Canada to a 5-0 win over Czechia in the women's world hockey championship Sunday.

The 26-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., scored twice and added an assist all in the first period for Canada, which faces defending champion United States on Monday night in a battle of 3-0 teams in Group A.

O'Neill's a five-foot-four defensive forward producing scoring chances for herself and her Canadian linemates in her fourth appearance at a world championship.

She mustered a game-high five shots on net Sunday. O'Neill led Canada in points with two goals and two assists after three games.

"I would say my confidence has grown every chance I get to play in this jersey," O'Neill said. "My role has kind of evolved in the Hockey Canada program.

"I've been a more defensive centreman in the past, but I think just finding different ways to contribute has been a focus of mine, and even the focus of my line."

O'Neill assisted on Canada's first goal Sunday scored by her linemate Danielle Serdachny. Renata Fast and Laura Stacey each earned their first goals of the tournament.

Sarah Nurse contributed a pair of assists. Canadian goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens posted a 13-save shutout in her second win of the tournament.

Her counterpart Klara Peslarova stopped 37 of 42 shots for Czechia (1-2), which was the bronze medallist the last two years.

Canada and Czechia met for the first time at a world championship last year in Brampton, Ont., where the hosts downed the Czechs 5-1 in a preliminary-round game.

The Czechs didn't help themselves with four penalties called in the first 10 minutes Sunday. O'Neill scored her first of the game on a delayed penalty with an extra Canadian attacker.

"It's not ideal," said Czech head coach Carla MacLeod. "This is our second time playing Canada so we naturally come in with a little bit of nerves.

"It was a pretty tough situation faced with three penalties right off the hop. I wasn't overly thrilled. I thought we competed hard to kill those off, but it hinders your rhythm."

Head coach Troy Ryan believes Canada has travelled the right trajectory from a sloppy performance in an opening win over Finland to a stronger effort against the Swiss, to the tighter crisper outing against the Czechs.

"Finland played really well against us," he said. "We just didn't play the way we want to play. It was actually a blessing in disguise because you can kind of have a little more accountability early in the event.

"That kind of wakes people up. We had some difficult conversations with the group. I thought we made some progress against Switzerland. I think we just took it up a notch today."

That comes just in time to face archrival United States, who beat Canada 6-3 in last year's final in Brampton.

In this winter's seven-game Rivalry Series between the two countries, Canada battled back from a three-game deficit to win four in a row and take the series.

"We're going to keep the momentum going from those games," said Canadian forward Jamie Lee Rattray.

"We play them throughout the year and want to win every time we play them. First place in the group is up for grabs. It's a big game for us."

The tournament's top five seeds in Group A and the top three in Group B advance to Thursday's quarterfinals. The semifinals are Saturday and the medal games Sunday.


Ryan bumped Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin's minutes to just under 15 on Sunday.

He's limited her ice time because of an injury that sidelined her for PWHL Montreal's last three games heading into the international break.

"We've tried to follow a strict regimen of time," Ryan said. "She's handled it well. She's not normally the one that wants to be pulled back. She wants to be let free."

Poulin has one assist in three games.


O'Neill is a second-line centre in Montreal behind teammate Poulin. That in combination with the 19 games and almost-daily skates with the PWHL club since the new league opened Jan. 1 has helped O'Neill add more dimension to her game.

"Just getting to learn from her every day, I've seen it in my game and just the physicality and speed of the game, I've made some steps forward so far," O'Neill said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2024.