OTTAWA — American forward Hilary Knight didn't mince her words on Monday.
"Whenever we match up against each other there is blood in the water and the sharks are out,'' Knight said on a day of semifinal action at the 2013 world women's hockey championships.
The proverbial sharks will be out Tuesday night when Canada and the United States meet for the 15th straight time for the women's world gold medal. Canada won the title last year in Vermont with a 5-4 overtime triumph, snapping the Americans’ string of three straight world titles.
"It will be a rough game, dirty, choppy but it is always rough and close games against the U.S.,'' said Canada's Rebecca Johnston, after an 8-1semifinal win over Russia in a game in which the Canadians dominated from the opening faceoff.
"It may not be pretty all the time but it will be a good game."
'It will be a rough game, dirty, choppy but it is always rough and close games against the U.S. It may not be pretty all the time but it will be a good game.'—Canada's Rebecca Johnston
Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice to lead the Canadians and now has six goals in five games. Natalie Spooner, Hayley Irwin, Jennifer Wakefield, Jayna Hefford, who was playing in her 250th game for Team Canada, Meaghan Agosta-Marciano and Johnston also scored in the rout.
Earlier, the U.S. ran into red-hot goalie Noora Raty in a 3-0 victory over Finland. Knight's goal with 6:05 left in the third period on the 39th shot by the Americans was the winner.
The Finns and Russians will play for bronze, and it's the 15th consecutive time Finland goes for a medal. Last year, they lost to Switzerland. Russia, meanwhile, finished fourth in 2011 and last won bronze in 2001.
It was a foregone conclusion that the top two teams in the women's world game would meet for the title. Canada and the U.S. are simply better in all facets of the game compared to the rest of the field.
These two teams opened the world tournament against each other. The U.S. led 2-0 going into the third period but Canada rallied for a 3-2 shootout win.
The Americans kept the Canadians at bay over the first two periods by pressuring the Canucks every inch of the ice. The Canadians were more tenacious in the third period and used their superior size to create traffic in front of the U.S. net. The tactics worked as both regulation goals were scored from scrums down low.
"That is our game, get pucks on net and dirty goals,'' said Johnston. "Just get pucks on net and screen the goalie."
Emotions run high
Emotions will definitely be running high. Canada and the U.S. are bitter rivals and one is the measuring stick for the other. The Americans would like nothing more than to win the gold medal on Canadian soil.
"It is very tough out there. You have to stay within the rules but it will be a rugged game,'' said Canada's Laura Fortino. "I think the team that is able to control and contain [their emotions] will be successful."
The championship game is what veteran Hayley Wickenheiser signed up for when she started down the road to her 12th world tournament. She missed three games with back spasms and is taking medication to deal with the pain in order to play.
Wickenhesier would have to be tied to an operating table not to play for gold.
"This is, for me, what I play for; tight games, worry about how you execute because the teams are pretty equal, where you have to make plays and may the best team win,'' she said.
The championship game marks the fourth time this season that Canada plays the United States. Canada has a 2-1 series lead.
"We do not need any incentive and nor do they,'' said U.S. coach Katey Strong.
Canada coach Dan Church agreed.
"It has been building for this point and we are pretty different teams than we played each other last week," he said. "I am looking forward to seeing our best game of the tournament."