Canadian women set for gold medal hockey showdown with US
Canada's women's hockey team was fine with a feisty finish in its semifinal win over the Russians at the Winter Olympics.
The Canadians felt the fireworks got them in the right mindset to play for Olympic gold again.
A 5-0 win over the Olympic Athletes from Russia on Monday propelled Canada to its sixth straight Olympic women's hockey final seeking a fifth consecutive gold.
The Canadians face the arch-rival United States on Thursday for the highest stakes in women's hockey.
``On one hand it's like any other hockey tournament. On the other hand, it is our Stanley Cup,'' Canadian forward Brianne Jenner said. ``It's what we dream about since we're little girls.''
Jennifer Wakefield led Canada with two goals Monday. Captain Marie Philip-Poulin, Emily Clark and Rebecca Johnston also scored.
Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados stopped 14 shots for the shutout and her second win of the tournament.
The game ended on a combative note as Russian forward Yevgenia Dyupina steamrolled Szabados behind Canada's net with a minute and a half left in the game. That drew the ire of Canadian defender Brigette Lacquette, who took a minor penalty for roughing, while Dyupina served a double minor.
``I'm fine,'' Szabados said. ``I was trying to skate to the bench because they were getting a penalty and I didn't want us to take one.
``I was trying to tell Brigette near the end of the game 'We've got a big one coming up. We need you for that one.'''
Russian goalie Valeria Tarakanova stopped 27-of-31 shots before being replaced by Nadezhda Alexandrova in the third period. Alexandrova made 15 saves.
Canada opened the preliminary round in Pyeongchang with a 5-0 win over the Russian women. The semifinal followed a similar pattern with the Canadians wearing down their defence.
The Canadians didn't hit their stride until early in the third period when they generated a two-goal burst, including a power-play goal after a scoreless four chances.
``Olympic Athletes of Russia battle hard, they're really good with their sticks, they play the body a lot,'' Jenner said. ``I think that got us battle-ready.
``We're excited on the way we finished that game. I don't think it was the strongest start, but what we like is the way we handled it and we got better as each period went on.''
Canada played its first game in the 10,000-seat Gangneung Hockey Centre after their three pool games at the smaller Kwandong Hockey Centre. Announced attendance was 3,396.
The Russian team is not allowed to wear its traditional red, white and blue in Pyeongchang as part of the punishment meted out by the International Olympic Committee for alleged state-sponsored doping in Sochi.
Russian athletes are referred to as Olympic Athletes from Russia, or OAR, and aren't allowed to compete under that country's flag.
The women wore red and white Monday, but had a vocal band of supporters in full tricolour tirelessly waving Russian flags.
``We were looking at things realistically, but we wanted to resist against them in a more impressive fashion,'' Russian head coach Alexei Chistyakov said. ``Instead we couldn't even score.''
Since women's hockey made its Olympic debut in 1998, Canada and the U.S. have met in every final except 2006 when the Americans were upset by Sweden in the semifinal.
The U.S. won the first hockey gold in 1998 with Canada winning the next four.
Only the U.S. women's basketball team has a longer streak of consecutive Olympic gold medals at six.
The Americans narrowly lost the hockey gold to Canada four years ago in Sochi, Russia. Poulin scored the tying goal with less than a minute left in regulation and then the overtime winner.
Thursday's game in Pyeongchang starts at 11:10 ET on Wednesday.
``A battle for the ages as usual,'' Jenner predicted. ``It's one of the best rivalries in hockey. There's not much more you can say.''
The Americans have won seven of the last eight women's world championships and beat Canada in the final every time.
The U.S. blanked Finland 5-0 in an earlier semifinal, so the Finns will face the Russians for bronze.