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Irwin injury interrupts U.S.-Canada rivalry at women's world hockey championship

BURLINGTON, Vt. - Canadian forward Haley Irwin is out for the rest of the women's world hockey championship with a sprained ankle, yet the aftermath of her injury produced a moment of unusual sportsmanship between bitter rivals.

Irwin slid hard into the end boards behind the U.S. net in the first period of Saturday's game. As the play went down to Canada's end, Irwin faced a long trip on one leg to the team's bench.

Irwin got up and grabbed the U.S. net before making a surprising request of American goaltender Molly Schaus.

"I kind of laid there for a bit and realized the whistle wasn't blowing so I thought 'OK, I've got to get to the bench because right now we're five-on-four,'" Irwin recounted Sunday. "I got to the net and I said 'can you give me a push?' She kind of looked at me. I said 'can you give me a push?'"

"She gave me a light push. I think I made it to the blue-line."

Schaus heard the crowd yelling for a whistle and knew a player was down behind her net.

"She came up and leaned against the net and said 'can you give me a push?' which I'd never heard before," Schaus said. "But I thought 'you've got to do it.'

"I gave her a little push. Obviously I didn't get her very far, which I felt bad about, which is that kind of awkward in between trying to get her to the bench, but at the same time I obviously can't skate with her."

While Irwin tried weaving her way on one leg back towards the benches, the play in Canada's end had gone on for a full minute. Norwegian referee Aina Hove hadn't blown the whistle and it was becoming painful to watch Irwin struggle.

Irwin was falling over in front of the U.S. bench when the whistle mercifully went. American forward Monique Lamoureux-Kolls was the first player to Irwin to help her up.

"No one really knew quite what to do," Schaus said. "It seemed like a long time for the whistle.

"Monique at the very end was about to come out and help her when the whistle blew. Obviously it's a rivalry, but you don't want to see an opponent hurt."

Canada and the U.S. have met in the final of all 13 world championships with Canada holding a 9-4 edge in gold-medal games.

While the Americans were gleefully thumping Canada 9-2 on Saturday, the Irwin incident brought an unexpected moment of humanity to the blowout.

"I think it was great sportsmanship on their part, obviously starting with Molly" Irwin said. "You know, they wanted the whistle too.

"It was great to see that from them. I feel like it definitely is a rivalry and that never changes. I feel when like when you see someone struggling that bad and in that much pain, you kind of feel for them no matter what."

Irwin, a 23-year-old from Thunder Bay, Ont., was on crutches and wearing an air cast Sunday while her team beat Finland 3-2.

"It's hard," Irwin said. "All year, whether you're with your club team, your university team, you can't wait for the world championships. For it to happen in Game 1, first period, it's tough, but there's absolutely nothing I can do about it."

The Canadian team wanted a whistle on that play a lot sooner. Unlike the two-referee system in men's hockey, the women's game has one head on-ice official. Hove was monitoring the play at the opposite end of the ice.

"The players on our bench, the coaches on their bench, the players on their bench were all screaming at the official to blow it down," Canadian head coach Dan Church said. "They saw something that was pretty serious.

"I understand you have to let the play go that way, but you need to look back and see."

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