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.
Article Source: The Associated Press
Photo Credit: Vincent Graton
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