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‘Cheap shot’ -- U.S., Canada shed light on what led to women’s hockey fight

Courtney Birchard

OTTAWA, CANADA - APRIL 8: Courtney Birchard #11 of Team Canada skates during the IIHF Womens World Championship Semi-Final game against Team Russia at Scotiabank Place on April 8, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Team Canada defeated Team Russia 8-1. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

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The first pre-Olympic exhibition game between the U.S. and Canada gained plenty of attention for a third-period fight (video here).

The rivals meet again in Boisbriand, Quebec, on Thursday night, but there’s still plenty of talk about what happened in Saturday’s 3-2 Canada win in Burlington, Vt.

With a little over three minutes left, American forward Monique Lamoureux collided with Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados.

Canadian defenseman Courtney Birchard took exception to the collision and ran down Lamoureux against the boards and down onto the ice before more players got involved.

“I think the No. 1 rule coming into hockey is you protect your goalie,” Birchard told TSN after practice Wednesday. “And someone throws a cheap shot at her, you gotta do what you gotta do to take care of business.”

“There’s an old saying, and my grandpa used to say it, that the best team bonding is a bar fight,” Canadian Tessa Bonhomme said. “Unfortunately, that’s what happened.”

No suspensions were handed down by the IIHF, Hockey Canada or USA Hockey, according to TSN.

Canadian coach Dan Church said the U.S.’ 3-2 win over Canada in the World Championships gold-medal game in Ottawa in April was still on the minds of his players going into Saturday.

“I think we wanted to set the tone here for the series,” Church said, according to CBC. “We also wanted to have a little redemption based on our last game. I think that’s the way it’s going to go for both teams as we move through this year. No one’s going to want to let the other one get up too many.”

Four-time U.S. Olympic defenseman Angela Ruggiero, now retired, said she talked to U.S. players after Saturday’s game.

"(The Canadians) believe we ran their goalie, and we believe they were running one of our players,” Ruggiero said on the red carpet of the Women’s Sports Foundation awards in New York on Wednesday night. “Both teams had the same impetus to jump in and help each other out.

“What it boils down to is they know they represent USA Hockey, but at the end of the day, you have to defend your teammates and stand up for each other. I think they did that.”

Ruggiero, also an International Olympic Committee member, felt the fight, the latest of several between the teams over the last two decades, illustrated the fervor of the rivalry.

“Someone said it right -- if this is the first time you’re seeing women’s hockey, you’re in for a treat,” Ruggiero said. “Because maybe the fight is the hook to get you in the building. ... There are few rivalries, in my opinion, in sport that are as intense. That was sort of exposed through this fight. I mean, it’s an exhibition at the beginning of the season. It doesn’t mean anything, but yet it means everything.”

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