LEKSAND, Sweden - Canada got both a challenge and the gold medal in the Four Nations women's hockey final, the perfect way to win the tournament for a fifth time in six years.
Jennifer Botterill of Winnipeg scored midway through the first period and goalie Shannon Szabados of Edmonton stopped 22 shots to make it stand up in a 2-0 victory Sunday over the United States.
"I think it means a whole lot more when the game is tight, which is really what we wanted," said head coach Peter Smith of Lachine, Que. "We wanted some games that were going to push us, make us play well and that's what the Americans did.
"I think that makes it way more meaningful."
Botterill scored at 10:21 of the first period and though more chances came fairly often from there, more goals did not. The Americans were a shot away from tying things up until Hayley Wickenheiser of Calgary scored into an empty net with four seconds left.
"All the games between us are really tight," said Szabados. "Once we got through the first period I knew that it was going to be a tight game and that (Botterill's) goal might be the game-winner."
The Canadians had zipped their way through the tournament at 3-0 through the round robin, including a 6-3 win over the U.S. on Thursday.
The Americans, meanwhile, were 2-1 and needed a 2-1 over Finland on Saturday to reach the final. Sunday's meeting, a rematch of last year's gold-medal game, was a completely different affair.
"It was an outstanding hockey game," said U.S. head coach Jackie Barto. "We battled and competed hard for 60 minutes and generated some very good scoring chances."
The teams combined for four power-play goals in their last meeting but some better officiating meant there were only nine penalties called in this one, five on the Americans, four on Canada. Fewer power plays also lead to fewer goals.
"The players adjusted to the officiating and did a good job of playing to the officiating level they established," said Smith. "It was one of our points of emphasis before the game started, to make sure we kept moving our feet and keep our sticks down."
The Americans got off to a quick start and the Canadians needed Szabados to help pull them through it. The momentum swung back toward Canada and Botterill's goal solidified that.
The Canadians were outshot 12-8 in the first period but held a 25-22 edge overall.
"We had some chances we didn't capitalize on early in the game and Shannon made the big saves to keep us in it," said Wickenheiser. "There were a lot of chances, but it was a low-scoring game as most finals tend to be.
"I thought it was a good character win for us."
And though the reigning world and Olympic champions were challenged, they never felt that this game was at risk of slipping away.
"We were in control most of the game really, we never felt like we had to panic or we were back on our heels at all," said Wickenheiser. "We had good pressure and that last six, seven minutes you're just trying to work the puck low and cycle, cycle."
Earlier, Finland beat Sweden 1-0 for the bronze medal.