Captain Alex Poznikoff of the Alberta Pandas had a goal and two assists, as the U SPORTS All-Stars opened the Hockey Canada Summer Showcase with a dominating 4-1 win over Japan.
Japan came out firing on all cylinders in the early going, but U SPORTS was able to shift the momentum, adjusting to the Japanese lightning-fast pace. UBC’s Hannah Koroll put U SPORTS on the board, scoring the first goal halfway through the frame.
With just under two minutes to play in the first, St. Thomas’ Alex Woods put U SPORTS up 2-0, assisted by Autumn MacDougall and Poznikoff. Both goals remained unanswered and U SPORTS led Japan 2–0 at the end of the first, outshooting their opponents 9–7.
“At first we thought they were really fast,” said goaltender Tricia Deguire of McGill. “We were a bit on our heels but then we adjusted and we got their pace.”
“They’re pretty structured and they’re very fast,” said Poznikoff, the reigning U SPORTS Player of the Year, of the Japanese team. “They were on us pretty hard so we came out ready and adjusted at the end of the first period. They took it to us that first little bit there.”
It looked to be a scoreless second period until Poznikoff made it 3–0 with a few seconds left on the clock, assisted by opening-scorer Koroll.
“I was going to change and then all of a sudden I was on a breakaway,” said Poznikoff. “It wasn’t the move I planned but it ended up working out, so I’ll take it.”
Japan would get one back just under six and a half minutes into the third. With UBC’s Rylind MacKinnon in the box for body checking, Akane Hosoyamada capitalized to cut the deficit to two.
It was quickly answered by another U SPORTS goal, however, this time by Saskatchewan’s Bailee Bourassa to cap off the victory.
“The first couple of shifts, everyone kind of got their feet under them and by the end of the game I think we were really rolling,” said Poznikoff. “It was exciting to see.”
Goaltending was on full display for both teams, but U SPORTS outshot Japan 24–21.
“She shot those rebounds out so we couldn’t get them,” said Poznikoff of Japanese goaltender Mai Kondo. “We tested her quite a bit and props to her — that was a pretty good game.
Woods says the team doesn’t fall into the trap of underestimating their opponents.
“Any team at this camp is going to be a pretty good team, so I think if we just bring our game every single time we step on the ice, we have a pretty good shot,” said Woods, who was also at last year’s Summer Showcase. “I definitely knew that they were a fast team so I expected that coming right out of the gates. They’re definitely a relentless team as well, so they never quit no matter what the score. They’re a well-respected team. I think that being a returning player, I knew how they played.”
The strategy is to keep working on building together as a team, added Woods.
“We were a little more aggressive and our communication was better, so overall the second time being on the ice together, I think we did well — we’ve got a good group,” she said. “Every time we step on the ice we just get better and better and we mesh better and better so I think that we should bring a good game to France.”
U SPORTS faces France on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. ET / 10:30 a.m. PT.