Loren Gabel scored her first national team goal to bring Canada even in the third period, but a late winner left the Canadians with a 2-1 loss Wednesday in Saskatoon. © Dave Holland/Hockey Canada Images

SASKATOON, Sask. – Loren Gabel (Kitchener, Ont./Clarkson University, ECAC) tied the game early in the third period for her first goal with Canada’s National Women’s Team, but a late winner left the Canadians with a 2-1 loss to the United States in preliminary-round play Wednesday at the 2018 4 Nations Cup.

The game marked the first meeting between the teams since the Olympic gold medal game nine months ago, and while the result wasn’t what Canada wanted, its young roster proved it could handle the biggest rivalry in women’s hockey.

The U.S. came out fast, and Hannah Brandt chipped an early goal past Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados (Edmonton, Alta./Buffalo, NWHL) just 78 seconds in for a quick 1-0 lead.

But Szabados was flawless the rest of the way in the first period, making 15 saves as Canada found itself outshot 16-4.

The Canadians picked up the pace in the second, with the veterans leading the charge; shots in the middle frame favoured the red-and-white 10-9, but U.S. netminder Alex Rigsby kept the Americans up by one.

After an early power play in the third period failed to produce the tying goal, an all-Ontario line finally got Canada even; Jamie Lee Rattray (Kanata, Ont./Markham, CWHL) was stopped on a two-on-one but Kristin O’Neill (Oakville, Ont./Cornell University, ECAC) threw the puck into the slot for Gabel, who banged in the 1-1 goal at 3:30.

Another Canada-U.S. match-up seemed destined for overtime, but the rebound of a Brianna Decker shot went off the body of Sydney Brodt and in to give the Americans a lead they would not relinquish.

Both goaltenders were terrific – Szabados finished with 31 saves, while Rigsby made 23 stops.

Canada will close out the preliminary round Thursday night against Finland (7:30 p.m. CT), while the Americans will take on Sweden in their finale (3 p.m. CT).