BRITISH COLUMBIA

Despite comeback win over U.S., Canada knows it has to be better at Four Nations

11/06/2014 08:22 EST | Updated 01/06/2015 05:59 EST
KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Canadian head coach Doug Derraugh knows his team can't keep relying on dramatic third periods against the United States.

Canada scored twice in the final five minutes on Wednesday in a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Americans in round-robin play at the Four Nations Cup, a game reminiscent of the women's gold-medal final at the Sochi Olympics when Canada scored late in regulation and again in overtime to stun the U.S.

Derraugh — who is in his first tournament as head coach and will also lead the team at next year's world championship — said nerves played a role for his young team in front of the home crowd early, but added a better overall effort will be required moving forward.

"I thought we settled in a little bit as the game went on," said Derraugh, whose team sits at 2-0 and already has a spot in Saturday's final locked up. "There were moments where I thought we played really well, and I thought there were moments where we struggled.

"I think if we're going to have success against (the U.S.) any time from here on out that we would need to play a stronger game than we did Wednesday."

The United States can guarantee a rematch in the championship game of the four-team tournament with a regulation victory over Sweden (0-2) in its round-robin finale on Friday, while anything less would put the Canada versus Finland (1-1) result in play later that evening.

Canada and the United States are both using the tournament to evaluate young players ahead of the 2018 Olympics, but they aren't the only ones looking to leave a mark on their respective national programs.

Derraugh, who was an assistant with Canada in 2012 and coaches the women's team at Cornell University in the NCAA, said the Four Nations is also a chance for him to show he belongs at this level beyond the spring of 2015.

"In coaching you're always looking to challenge yourself. You want to learn and I think this was a great opportunity for me to learn more," said the Arnprior, Ont., native. "I'm always trying to get better and this is certainly a good stage to put yourself on to force yourself to work harder and get better.

"When you get an opportunity to represent your country at this level it's certainly an honour. I'm humbled by it and certainly want to do the best job I can."

The same goes for the Canadian players given leadership roles in Kamloops. Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford are among the 10 veterans who were left at home, meaning that players like captain Haley Irwin and assistants Rebecca Johnston, Lauriane Rougeau and Natalie Spooner are being given a chance to grab the torch.

"You've got some of the older players not on the squad at this time and it's an opportunity for some of the players that haven't been in a 'leadership role' to step up and help us in that regard and help develop their leadership skills," said Derraugh. "Whether they're the next leadership group or not, it will help them in the future because they'll have had that and they'll know what it's like to be in those roles.

"I think that's really helpful for a player if you are the captain, but it's also really helpful if you're not the captain in the future so you know the pitfalls and you know what it's like."

At just 26, Irwin said it has been an adjustment being one of the senior players on the squad.

"Our roster's a lot different. It's weird to say I'm a vet on this team," she said. "It's definitely a new role for a few of us, but definitely one we're embracing."

The U.S. also has a lot of youngsters trying to cut their teeth, as well as a coach who is also getting his first experience at this level.

Former NHL defenceman Ken Klee coached with the U.S. under-22 program before being asked to lead the senior team at the Four Nations. As it stands now, Klee's commitment ends after Saturday's final, but he also sees the tournament as an audition.

"That's the way the coaching gig is. You're here for now and doing the best you can," said Klee, who played 934 games with seven NHL teams before retiring after 2008-09 season. "It's that way for the young players and the same for me as a coach. I'm enjoying it and trying to do the best job I can.

"It's a great opportunity. When you're a coach and you have a chance to work with elite-level athletes who want to get better everyday, that's a great situation."

Derraugh's team already knows it will be playing the final, but he still wants a 60-minute effort from Canada against the Finns, who lost 5-0 to the U.S. before topping Sweden 1-0.

"We're looking for strong execution of our game plan and see the habits that are going to make us successful not only at this tournament, but in the future," said Derraugh. "Right now it hasn't been consistent. Until we get to that point where we are consistently doing the things we need to do it's going to be tough."

Notes: Canada has won the Four Nations Cup a total 13 times, while the U.S. took top spot in the other five. ... The Americans finished third as the hosts last year in Lake Placid, N.Y., behind Canada and Finland. ... The women's world hockey championship will be held from March 28 to April 4 in Malmo, Sweden.