Canada has to get through Finland on Monday to get to the gold-medal game the following day at the women’s world hockey championship. The Finns have never beaten Canada in international women’s hockey, but that isn’t a lot of comfort to Davidson. Sweden’s upset of the U.S. in last year’s Olympic semifinal proved that anything can happen in a one-off matchup.
“There’s a first time for everything,” Davidson declared Sunday. “To me, it’s like a semifinal game and I hate playing Finland in the semifinal game. Every year it seems like we have to and they’re always a tough opponent in the semifinals.
“The semifinal, obviously, we’re supposed to be in the gold medal game. If you don’t win that game . . .”
Davidson didn’t finish the sentence because to do that at home in front of a building full of fans was unthinkable to her.
“If we see that tomorrow, it wouldn’t because Finland beat us. It would be because we beat ourselves,” veteran forward Danielle Goyette said.
A win or overtime loss against Finland and Canada would earn a berth in Tuesday’s final at MTS Centre. The top two teams in the playoff round advance to the final.
In Sunday’s playoff round game, the U.S. beat Finland 4-0 and advanced to Tuesday’s gold-medal game. The U.S. has four points, Canada has two and Finland has zero.
On the ice Sunday, Russia beat Kazakhstan 7-0 in the relegation round and Sweden hammered China 12-2 in the playoff round group runners-up. The winner of that round plays for bronze.
Canada pulled out a 5-4 shootout win over the U.S. on Saturday, but the defending champion Americans exposed chinks in Canada’s armour.
The U.S. has the speed to keep a sustained forecheck on the Canadians and pressure them into coughing up the puck in their own zone.
Finland likely won’t go down that road, however, because it’s risky to pinch on a team that is explosive once they pass their own blue-line.
They’ll try to test the Canadians’ patience by trapping rather than chasing Canada in their own zone.
“They could, but they have never really tried that,” Canadian forward Caroline Ouellette.
“The European teams often try to trap us and make us play into that trap so we can’t get out of our zone.”
The Canadians were put through an intense, hard practice at the Winnipeg Winter Club on Sunday.
There wasn’t a lot of rinkside seating at the recreational centre and the stands were full of people wanting a free glimpse of the Olympic champions and tournament favourites.
Goyette did not skate because she had a sore throat. She said she wanted to practise, but Davidson felt she should take the day off.
Canada was caught off guard by the Americans’ pressure to open Saturday’s game. They struggled to work the puck out of their own end and gave up some odd-man rushes early.
“We really want to clean up our end and work on breaking out of the zone versus pressure,” defenceman Colleen Sostorics said. “We covered that in practice today and we’re looking towards tomorrow’s game to, not only win that game, but to tighten up on the things we need to work on in our own end.”
The closest Finland has ever come to beating Canada was a 6-6 tie back in 1999 in an exhibition game in Oshawa, Ont. This Canadian team hammered them 9-0 in an exhibition game before world championship began.
“They played very well for the first 30 minutes and then a couple of questionable goals went in,” Davidson said. “When you’re a team battling to knock off one of the top teams, those questionable goals can hurt you.”
The Finns are young with an average age of just over 23, compared to almost 27 for Canada.
But Finland is quick and savvy with the puck. They have confidence from beating Olympic silver medallist Sweden 1-0 in overtime during the preliminary round.
“We have to fight hard, but I think we have a chance to beat Canada,” overtime hero Saija Sirvio said. “We have to move the puck and play good defence. I think it is possible.”
Notes – Ticket sales for the 2007 women’s world hockey championship hit 119,019, which is the highest for any women’s world championship . . . Tuesday’s gold medal game was sold out at 15,003 . . . Finland defenceman Katariina Soikannen is a teammate of Canadian forward Meghan Agosta at Mercyhurst . . . Ouellette is an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where Finland’s Saara Tuominen and Heidi Pelttari play.