Analysis

Delays, masks, and lineup changes: Adaptability a key theme for Canadian women's hockey team

If a strange scenario relating to "safety and security concerns" threw off the Canadian women's hockey team, they certainly didn't show it. Sarah Nurse and Sarah Fillier tallied goals 20 seconds apart in just the third minute of action to jumpstart Canada to a 6-1 win, maintaining a perfect 3-0 record.

Conditions may not have been perfect, but Canadian team still is after 6-1 win vs. ROC

Canada's players react during their match against Russia's Olympic Committee team at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the Wukesong Sports Centre in Beijing on Monday. (Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images)

The women's hockey game between Canada and the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) took a while to begin, but once it finally did, the Canadians yet again wasted no time getting going.

Puck drop was delayed by just over an hour, with the official reason given by the technical delegate being "safety and security concerns." Canada had reportedly refused to play without receiving morning COVID-19 test results from the ROC team, which has had numerous players sidelined by the virus.

Both sides ultimately agreed to play wearing respirator masks until the test results became available.

If the strange scenario threw off the Canadians, they certainly didn't show it.

Sarah Nurse and Sarah Fillier tallied goals 20 seconds apart in just the third minute of action to jumpstart Canada to a 6-1 win, maintaining its 3-0 record.

WATCH | Canadian and ROC hockey teams wear masks due to testing delay:

Canadian and ROC hockey teams wear masks due to testing delay

10 months ago
Duration 2:00
The Hockey Show discusses how COVID-19 testing delays led to both teams wearing N95 masks during Canada's 6-1 win.

"For Canada, I think getting a good start was important after the delay," said Iya Gavrilova, a three-time Russian Olympian who has spent much of her career in Calgary. "I give players a lot of credit for playing through it and not getting too caught up on the situation."

Alternate captain Brianne Jenner said the Canadians had a simple approach to filling the extra time.

"We danced," she said. "I'm not kidding. We were just focused on staying prepared, staying loose in the room. We didn't know when the puck was going to drop, we just wanted to stay ready."

Though Canada came away with another comfortable win, it didn't cruise through quite as easily as it had in the opening two contests. The ROC squad was much more effective at intercepting Canadian passes and disrupting possession than either previous opponent.

"The Russian team is known for being physical," Gavrilova noted. "I think they really showed this game that they played the body a lot and kind of kept Canada on the outside. They had good sticks, too, really some good defensive plays."

The ROC's physicality was both an asset and a liability, with over a third of the game spent on special teams. Canada capitalized on three of seven power plays while killing off all four of its own infractions.

WATCH | Canada stays perfect with win over ROC:

Canada's women's hockey team stays perfect with win over Russian Olympic Committee

10 months ago
Duration 4:40
Canada's women's hockey team stays perfect with win over Russian Olympic Committee

Canada may not have achieved the same fluid puck movement that it demonstrated against Switzerland and Finland, but it nonetheless appeared to be fully in control throughout the game. All six goals came from different players, with Jamie Lee Rattray, Erin Ambrose, Rebecca Johnson, and Marie-Philip Poulin rounding out the scoring.

The Canadians put 49 shots on goal, outshooting the ROC by a 23-3 margin in the second period alone. Players were dogged around the net, with plenty of the attempts coming from rebounds and scrambles in tight.

The occasional disjointed sequence was perhaps attributable to not only the opponent's persistence, but also the masks' impact on peripheral vision.

"Maybe you lost a puck or two at your feet, but we don't want to use it as an excuse," Jenner said. "We want to come out and play a good, solid game. We had a couple of shifts we definitely want back but mentally we did a really good job adapting."

'We can say we were at the COVID Olympics'

Anna Shokhina scored the lone goal for the ROC, the first time a team from Russia has scored against Canada in Olympic competition.

"Team Canada and the United States are the two best teams in the world," said forward Alexandra Vafina, who earned an assist on the play. "To score against them is the perfect gift from this game for us."

WATCH | Full game, Canada vs. ROC:

Adaptability remains a key theme for Canada, as players not only adjusted to the lengthy pause and to playing while masked, but also faced a last-minute line-up change.

Canadian forward Emily Clark was pulled off the ice during warm-ups, a decision that head coach Troy Ryan told reporters was precautionary after Clark returned an inconclusive COVID-19 test result.

While ROC players removed their respirators upon receiving the test results before the third period, Canadians continued wearing them for the full 60 minutes.

"I didn't expect this," Jenner acknowledged. "But we have said all year that nothing fazes us, and this didn't faze us."

"This is probably a cool story in the long run," added Natalie Spooner. "We can say we were at the COVID Olympics and we even wore a mask in a game."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kirsten Whelan has covered women's hockey since 2015, from the youth level through to professional and international competition. She is based in Montreal.

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