Canada breezes to berth in Four Nations Cup final
Natalie Spooner, Wakefield lead attack while Szabados earns shutout vs. Sweden
The Canadian women's hockey team will enter the championship game at the Four Nations Cup on a high after closing out an undefeated round robin with a 9-0 rout of Sweden on Friday at Valtti Areena.
Natalie Spooner and Jennifer Wakefield scored two goals apiece and Shannon Szabados made 27 saves to help Canada post its third straight victory.
"It's always nice when you score a bunch of goals," said head coach Dan Church from Tikkurila, Finland. "It gives the forwards some confidence. I think on the back end, it was a good performance by our [defence] and goalie to get the shutout.
"Overall, a great way to head into tomorrow."
Canada will play the United States in the title match while Sweden and Finland play for bronze.
Gillian Apps, Catherine Ward, Jayna Hefford, Tessa Bonhomme and Vicki Bendus also scored as Canada fired 64 shots on the Swedish net. Canada has outscored the opposition 18-1 over the three games.
Playing with confidence
The Canadian roster includes almost all the players from the team that won gold at the 2012 world championship last spring. Canada beat the Americans 5-4 in overtime in the championship game.
Church likes that his team is playing with confidence.
"I think the players have really battled hard," he said. "Just the consistency in their approach to the little details in the game I think has made a big difference for us.
"Things like our physical play, backchecking and just the commitment by everybody to play for their role in whatever role they're given for that game. I think they've all done a great job of that."
Canada last won the Four Nations Cup in 2010, defeating the Americans 3-2 in overtime. The United States beat Canada 4-3 in a shootout in last year's final in Sweden.
"I think the players are ready. They're ready for the challenge of regaining the gold medal at this tournament," Church said.
Canada has won this event 12 times over its 16-year history. The tournament also serves as an evaluation opportunity for team brass ahead of the 2013 world championship in Ottawa this April.