PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — One look at U.S. forward Brianna Decker’s face, sweaty and frowning Thursday after a 2-1 loss to Canada, dispelled the notion that the teams’ preliminary-round finale meant nothing because both had clinched spots in the Olympic semifinals.

One glance at the pushing and shoving at the end, one look at the rueful expression of U.S. forward Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and the happy smile of Canada goalie Genevieve Lacasse, who foiled a penalty shot by Lamoureux-Davidson in the second period while making 44 saves, and there could be no doubt how much this meant to the pride and sense of history of players on both sides of a rivalry that has carried women’s hockey so well for so long.

“It’s the two giants of the world of hockey colliding,” said U.S. forward Hilary Knight, who had a chance to tie the score in the waning seconds but missed a swipe at a rapidly moving pass during a scramble. “It’s a great game. It’s a lot of fun.”

At stake was playoff seeding, not an Olympic gold medal, although these teams almost certainly will meet in the final for a third consecutive time.

There have been only six women’s Olympic hockey tourneys: the first was at Nagano, Japan, in 1998 and was won by the U.S., but Canada has won the rest. And despite occasional promising showings from Finland and Sweden and, lately, Switzerland, the top step of the medal stand more than likely will be occupied by Canada or the U.S.

The two teams will rest up for the semifinals while the other six will compete in the quarterfinals. The two quarterfinal winners will go to the semifinals. Canada (3-0) will have a higher seeding than the U.S. (2-1).

Canada, which has won the teams’ last five Olympic matchups, found fault in its performance, although it gave up only Kendall Coyne’s goal 23 seconds into the third period.

“I don’t think we can give them all those shots next time,” forward Blayre Turnbull said.

The semifinals will be played Monday, giving the U.S. time to correct what didn’t go as it hoped Thursday.

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