Clash of the (Olympic) titans: Canada, U.S. ready for latest battle between women's hockey superpowers
Canadians have won 5 straight against their American rivals
By Mike Brophy, CBC Sports
Canada and the United States will put their perfect 2-0 records on the line when they meet in a clash of the titans on Wednesday.
The Americans, who are the International Ice Hockey Federation's No. 1-ranked team in the world, opened the 2018 Winter Olympic Games preliminary round with a 3-1 win against Finland and followed that with a 5-0 victory against the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
Jocelyn Lamoureaux-Davidson is leading the Americans in scoring with two goals and three points while her sister, Monique Lamoureaux-Morando, Dani Cameranesi and Gigi Marvin each have a goal and an assist.
Lamoureaux-Davidson scored her goals six seconds apart against Russia establishing an Olympic record (for men and women) for fastest two goals.
Maddie Rooney was in goal for the win against Finland while Nicole Hensley took the net against Russia. Alex Rigsby is expected to start in goal for the U.S. against Canada, though that is not set in stone.
"We have three goalies that can play and we expect them all to play," U.S. coach Robb Stauber said. "We're going to need them. We don't have to look over our shoulder and wonder if our goalies are capable. We believe in them; that's why we're here."
Stauber claims his team has not spent a lot of time thinking about its preliminary game against Canada.
"It's definitely a one-game-at-a-time mentality," Stauber said. "Now we know who we play in our next game. We know the opponent very well so we're just going to play extremely hard and we're going to try to duplicate some of the things that we did well [against Russia]."
Canada, meanwhile, skated to an easy 5-0 win against the Russians and then overpowered Finland 4-1 in a game in which Canada struck 35 seconds into the contest and led 4-0 after 40 minutes.
VIDEO | The best moments from Canada's win over Finland:
Melodie Daoust, who was recently moved to the top line alongside Marie-Philip Poulin and Meghan Agosta, has responded nicely with three goals and four points to lead Team Canada. Rebecca Johnston has two goals and four points; Poulin a goal and four points while Agosta, playing in her fourth Olympic Winter Games, has a goal and three points.
Ann-Renee Desbiens got the win against Russia and Shannon Szabados ran her Olympic record to a perfect 7-0 against Finland. If Canada follows a similar path as the U.S., playing all three goalies in the preliminary round, that would mean Genevieve Lacasse would get the start against the Americans. Lacasse was on Canada's 2014 goal medal-winning team in Sochi, Russia, but didn't get into any games.
While the U.S. could go on and on about its four consecutive world championship titles as well as their three straight Four Nations Cup championships and Canada could counter with the fact it has won four straight Olympic gold medals, there really isn't much to separate the two teams. Nor does history have much to do with this year's Olympic Games for those who live in the here and now.
"They're a great country, but we are, too," Agosta said. "Ever since August, we've improved. Our coaching staff has done a great job getting us up to the level we need to be at. We're ready to take on whomever gets in our way. It's going to be an exciting game. It's always a battle with the U.S."
VIDEO | Clash of the Titans
'A' game vs. 'Eh' game
Even though Canada has been riding a hot streak, the players remain respectful of their greatest foe.
"The [U.S] has a wonderful team; a deep team," Jillian Saulnier said. "And they work hard. We always have good games against them. We bring our 'A' game and they bring their 'A' game. All we do is focus on what we are doing and when we face them on the ice, we're just making sure we are the most prepared we can be so we can get the win."
Canada was beaten 5-1 in the final of the Four Nations Cup by the U.S. in November, but since then, the Canadians have beaten the Americans five straight times.
Nevertheless, Canada – at least publicly – likes to play the underdog card even though few buy it.
"We love being the underdog," Team Canada GM Melody Davidson said. "We'll take that any day."
Added coach Laura Schuler: "If people want to call us the underdog, then so be it. I'm not framing it one way or another. There's a lot of real positives in our play."