Canada, U.S. to play for women's hockey gold
Canada opened the women's world hockey championship on a sour note. They're looking for a sweet ending.
A 9-2 loss to the U.S. to start the tournament was the worst beating Canada has ever taken from the Americans in women's hockey. The rematch between the two countries Saturday is for the gold medal.
"We know we're a much better team than we played the first game," Canadian assistant captain Caroline Ouellette said. "We're excited to prove it tomorrow.
"We're kind of the underdogs. People who were at the game probably think the U.S. is going to win for sure. Honestly, it's the position that I'd rather be in. There's no pressure for us. We want to come out and play with confidence
Canada beat Finland 5-1 and the U.S. thumped Switzerland 10-0 in Friday's semifinals.
Canada and the U.S. will have met for gold in 14 women's world championships since the first was held in Ottawa in 1990.
Canada has a 9-4 record in world finals versus the U.S., but hasn't won one since 2007 in Winnipeg. The Americans are winners of three straight and four of the last five, including a 3-2 overtime victory last year in Zurich, Switzerland.
This may be the best women's hockey team that U.S. has had to date. Coached by Harvard's Katey Stone, they're quick, skilled, relentless and confident.
Their top line of Kelli Stack centring twin sisters Monique Lamoureux-Kolls and Jocelyne Lamoureux has been lethal in this tournament.
"Canada doesn't like getting beat 9-2 and neither would we if the situations were switched," Lamoureux-Kolls said. "We know the game isn't going to be anything like that tomorrow. "We know it's going to be tough. I don't think we can let ourselves be overconfident."
Canada should be more prepared ready for the American attack this time, as well as the loud crowd support the home team will have at 3,335-seat Gutterson Fieldhouse. About 300 tickets were still available Friday.
Canada's defence, which has been suspect at times, will be tested early and often.
"They have a lot of speed and we have to find a way to match that speed or kill that speed," Canadian head coach Dan Church said. "To be able to weather the storm against a skilled, fast team, we need to be able to do that. They're going to bring pressure. We need to play on our toes, not on our heels."
Church doesn't make his starting goaltender public until game day. Shannon Szabados, who made 14 saves Friday against the Finns, has been Canada's choice in recent big games.
She played most of the first period of the U.S. game after Charline Labonte was pulled, but Labonte went back in for the second period. Szabados stopped nine of 11 shots from the Americans in her 16 minutes and 28 seconds of work.
"If it's me or Charlie, for the whole entire team, the first five minutes, the first 10 minutes are going to be huge," Szabados said.
Canada can draw confidence from their start against the Finland. They scored twice in the first five minutes on Noora Raty, who is arguably the best female goalie in the international game right now.
Finland exposed cracks in Canada's defence. The Canadians can compensate for those mistakes against a country that has never beaten them.
Canada fumbled the puck at times coming out of their own zone into Finland's trap. The U.S. will make them pay dearly for miscues Saturday.
"I think we have to keep it simple," Ouellette said. "If you watched the game against the U.S., often when they had nothing they put it up against the glass and out and used their speed to go get it.
"When everything is on the line, sometimes you have to just celebrate getting the puck out of the zone."
Defenders Courtney Birchard, Lauriane Rougeau and Laura Fortino, plus forward Vicky Bendus, Bailey Bram and Brianne Jenner will play in their first world championship final for Canada.
"We need our young players to play with confidence tomorrow and know they have all the skills to play at this level and make a difference, to be a difference," Ouellette said. "If we can do that tomorrow, we'll probably have more success than in the first game."
Canada has a longer rest for the final after their afternoon semifinal. The U.S. won't be much fatigued after their romp over the Swiss, in which they outshot them 80-10.
Finland will face the Swiss for bronze Saturday. In other games, Sweden edged Russia 2-1 in overtime for fifth place. Germany downed Slovakia 3-1, which relegated the Slovaks to the second-tier world championship in 2013.
Meghan Agosta and Marie-Philip Poulin led Canada's offence Friday with a goal and an assist apiece. Ouellette, Birchard and Fortino scored goals and Natalie Spooner contributed a pair of assists for Canada.
Karolina Rantamaki scored Finland's lone goal on a power play and Raty made 38 saves in the loss.