CANADA, USA RIVALRY SET FOR A NEW CHAPTER IN GOLD MEDAL GAME
Heading into the tournament in Pyeongchang, there was the distinct feeling that every single game, be it preliminary round or playoff competition, was simply a precursor to a much-anticipated rematch of the past two Olympics between Canada and USA. And as of Monday, it turns out the feeling was bang on as the two North American nations have advanced to the final at the Games.
It was Team USA who booked their ticket first, putting the pressure on the Canadians to respond. As they entered their rematch against Finland, whom USA defeated 3-1 during the group stage, the Americans came out flying early and didn’t take their collective feet off the gas until their work was done. In the opening frame, it took more than 10 minutes for Team USA to strike as Gigi Marvin unloaded a one-timer that got by Finnish netminder Noora Raty for the game-opening goal. And in an early hole, things didn’t get much better for the Finns.
Though Finland, on the strength of Raty’s play, was able to keep matters close until the dying minutes of the first. Raty couldn't stop a Dani Cameranesi blast, however, and the Americans headed into the break with a 2-0 lead. The poor finish to the opening frame lead to a bad start to the second. Two minutes in, Finland committed two infractions — one for elbowing, one for cross-checking — that gave the powerful USA offense a 5-on-3 and all the opportunity they needed to put the game out of reach. Just before the two-man advantage expired, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson lit the lamp to stretch USA’s lead to three, and 34 seconds after that, Hilary Knight found twine to truly bury Finland.
Before the contest was out, Cameranesi added another marker, this time on the power play, to put the finishing touches on a convincing 5-0 semifinal victory Team USA. The final tally saw USA outshoot Finland better than two-to-one, finishing with a 38-14 margin. Maddie Rooney turned aside every Finnish attempt for her first shutout of the tournament.
Knowing the rival Americans had advanced to play for gold, Canada entered their semifinal meeting with the Olympic Athletes from Russia with the opportunity to book their own ticket to the final in Pyeongchang. Incredibly, the result almost exactly mirrored what Team USA had done against the Finns, right down to the fast start.
With USA’s victory at least somewhere in the back of their minds, Canada didn't even need two minutes to strike against OAR. After working the puck out of the corner, Natalie Spooner made a deft pass out front to Jennifer Wakefield, who made no mistake and slapped one by Russian netminder Valeria Tarakanova. The score remained 1-0 through the remainder of the first, but like USA, Canada stretched their lead early in the second. This time, it was Marie-Philip Poulin finding the back of the net with a backhand from the slot after Canada skated circles around the OAR defense. Again, though, Tarakanova stood tall for the remainder of the period to keep the game in striking distance.
The third frame change things, though. Wakefield scored her second goal within two minutes of the start of a period, this time working her way around the net and somehow finding pay dirt from a sharp angle, and Emily Clark put the game out of reach when she fired home her first of the tournament 31 seconds later. Clark’s goal spelled the end of the night for Tarakanova as Nadezhda Alexandrova came into action in relief. Alexandrova did well to settle OAR over the next several minutes, but her clean sheet fell by the wayside when Rebecca Johnston scored a power play goal with six minutes remaining to complete a 5-0 Canadian victory.
Shannon Szabados earned the shutout for Canada, but she wasn't tested nearly as often as her Russian counterparts. Szabados stopped 14 shots over the course of 60 minutes, while Tarakanova and Alexandrova combined to stop 42 of 47 shots against.
The identical 5-0 wins set up the third-straight Olympic gold-medal game between USA and Canada, to the surprise no one. It's been more than a decade since any major medal in women's international competition — Olympics or World Championships — has featured a head-to-head between any teams other than Canada and USA. The last such instance was 12 years ago at the Turin Olympics when Canada defeated Sweden for gold.
1. Dani Cameranesi (USA): Two goals and three points in USA’s win over Finland.
2. Jennifer Wakefield (CAN): Scored early in the first and the third in Canada's semifinal win.
3. Melodie Daoust(CAN): Was everywhere for Canada, skating 20 minutes and registering two assists.
Monday, Feb. 19
Slovakia vs. USA (M), 10:10 p.m. ET
Korea vs. Sweden (W), 11:10 p.m. ET
Tuesday, Feb. 20
Japan vs. Switzerland (W), 2:40 a.m. ET
Norway vs. Slovenia (M), 2:40 a.m. ET
South Korea vs. Finland (M), 7:10 a.m. ET
Germany vs. Switzerland (M), 7:10 a.m. ET
TBD vs. Czech Republic (M), 10:10 p.m. ET