This was supposed to be the winter when the up-and-comers signalled a changing of the guard on the Canadian women's hockey team.
Turns out, the elder stateswomen aren't going anywhere just yet. Except for Vancouver, that is.
Jayna Hefford and Caroline Ouellette, two of the longest-serving members of the national program, combined for three goals and six points last night as Team Canada toppled Team USA 6-2 in an exhibition tilt at the Dome.
"We're not ready to give up our spots yet," Hefford said with a smile. "But it's fun to see these young kids and how good they are. It's fun to watch, and they push us."
Last night, Hefford was the ones who ensured the fans got their money's worth.
Gina Kingsbury, Cherie Piper and teenager Marie-Philip Poulin also bulged the twine for Team Canada, who've now won four straight in a six-game exhibition series between the women's hockey powerhouses, but the 32-year-old sharpshooter from Kingston, Ont., was undoubtedly the most dominant skater.
With the U.S. holding a 1-0 lead and the fans in a hush near the end of a mistake-filled opening period, Hefford raced into enemy territory, slammed on the brakes and watched veteran rearguard Angela Ruggeiro slide by before threading a perfect pass to Ouellette on the edge of the crease to tie it up.
Ouellette returned the favour midway through the second period, setting up Hefford for an easy tap-in.
The 30-year-old power forward from Montreal accepted a slick pass from centre Meghan Agosta and likely could've finished it off by herself, but spotted a wide-open Hefford in the slot for the 121st marker of her international career.
Hefford hit the scoresheet again just over six minutes later, taking a feed from Agosta at an awkward angle and lifting a wrist shot over the shoulder of American starter Molly Schaus for the eventual game-winner.
Hefford finished with two goals and an assist, while Ouellette had one goal and two helpers and Agosta counted an assist on all three markers.
"We enjoy playing together," Ouellette said. "We have size. We have so much speed-- Agosta and Hefford are some of the fastest players in the world and they're so dangerous offensively. Hefford is one of the best two-way players in the world, as well, and I think that makes it that we're solid defensively, too. And Agosta can score like not many players in the world."
Poulin cashed in an insurance marker at the end of the second period and Kingsbury and Piper both lit the lamp during an 18-second span in the third period to turn the see-saw battle into a rout.
Meghan Duggan and Jocelyne Lamoureux were the only Americans to solve Team Canada's Shannon Szabados.