Canadian, U.S. women's hockey teams set for 6th Olympic gold-medal showdown
Sarah Nurse anticipates 'exciting' contest as Canada takes game to new heights
Canada has earned its shot at Olympic women's hockey redemption.
The Canadians beat Switzerland 10-3 on Monday in Beijing while the United States defeated Finland 4-1 in the other semifinal to set up a sixth gold-medal showdown on Wednesday at 11 p.m. ET.
The latest victory continued Canada's unbeaten run in this tournament, having outscored opponents 54-8. But none of that overwhelming success will matter much if it is forced to settle for silver.
Since women's hockey made its 1998 Olympic debut in Nagano, Japan, the cross-border rivals have played for the championship in every Winter Games tournament but the 2006 Turin Games, when Canada defeated Sweden after the Swedes eliminated the U.S. in the semifinals.
We worked all year for this. ... That gold medal is definitely on our mind.— 4-time Canadian Olympian Rebecca Johnston
This time, the Americans are attempting to defend their title following a 3-2 shootout win at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, which ended Canada's Olympic run of four championships.
Four-time Olympian Rebecca Johnston said the job isn't done just yet.
"We worked all year for this, we worked so hard, so we're going to be ready to go in that final game and really give it our all," she said.
"That gold medal is definitely on our mind."
WATCH | Highlights from Canada's win over Switzerland:
Canada is considered the favourite in Beijing with a 6-0 record, including a 4-2 win over the U.S. in the preliminary round finale last week.
Brianne Jenner, who tied an Olympic record with her ninth goal of the tournament against Switzerland, said she's not worried about any past games against the U.S.
Finland faces Swiss for bronze
"I think we know that history, but we're going to give ourselves a blank slate. We looked at it as an opportunity to go out there and claim a gold rather than looking at the history books and what has happened," she said.
Canadian player Sarah Nurse was looking forward to renewing the rivalry one more time.
"Obviously, playing the U.S. it's always an exciting game, always an exciting rivalry," said Nurse, who had four assists. "Our biggest focus is we get to play another game at the Olympics. We came here to play seven games. We wanted the last one to be the gold-medal game."
Finland will face Switzerland in Wednesday's bronze-medal game in a repeat of the same matchups from the world championship tournament in August, when Canada beat the U.S. 3-2 in overtime of the championship game. Finland won bronze with a 3-1 win over the Swiss.
WATCH | Jenner matches Olympic scoring mark:
Meanwhile, four goals in just over two minutes midway through the first period proved to be all Canada needed Monday against Switzerland, which was on its heels early.
Captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice and Sarah Nurse continued her strong play with four assists.
Toronto's Claire Thompson set a tournament record for points by a defender with two goals and 10 assists in six games.
"I'm so surprised. It was never something I thought that I would ever be anywhere close to that, but the team's just been doing so well all tournament," Thompson said. "Our offence has been generating a lot, and I'm just happy to be here."
Unlike other games where the likes of Jenner and rising star Sarah Fillier have done most of the scoring, it was a balanced attack that helped Canada get past Switzerland.
Thompson started the four-goal outburst with her second of the tournament while Renata Fast capped it with her first. In between, forwards Jamie Lee Rattray and Blayre Turnbull added their fifth and fourth, respectively.
Light workload for Desbiens
It was enough to cause the Swiss to pull starting goalie Andrea Braendli in favour of backup Saskia Maurer.
But Canada's Erin Ambrose greeted Maurer rudely when her point shot went past the Swiss goaltender just over one minute after she entered the game.
In the second period, Poulin's pair ensured a Swiss team fighting for its life was kept at bay despite getting two goals of their own past Canadian goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens, who made 10 saves for the win.
WATCH | Poulin scores beauty for her 2nd of the game:
Canada, on the other hand, peppered 61 shots on the Swiss netminders.
Emily Clark also added a second-period marker for her second in Beijing.
Forward Emma Maltais provided a nice moment in the third period when she scored her first-ever Olympic goal. Maltais, 22, celebrated by jumping up and down with a big smile on her face.
The team also welcomed back forward Mélodie Daoust, who led Canada in scoring en route to a world title last summer. She hadn't played since an upper-body injury in the second period of a 12-1 win over the Swiss on Feb. 3.
"Every time I get the honour to wear that Maple Leaf, it's amazing and to be able to represent my country being back on the ice for my third Olympics, that's all I've dreamed of. Really happy that I was able to come back," Daoust said.
Daoust notched one assist in her return, meaning every player on Team Canada now has at least one point in Beijing.
Canada had won four consecutive Olympic gold medals before its second-place finish in Pyeongchang. Poulin has almost directly been responsible for two of those four, as she scored both goals in a shutout win in the 2010 final and added the late equalizer and golden overtime goal in 2014.
She had the game on her stick once again in 2018, but was stopped by American goalie Maddie Rooney.
Struggles with finishing chances
Hilary Knight had a goal and assist for the U.S against Finland and Alex Cavallini stopped 25 shots.
Knight, playing in her U.S. women's team record-tying 21st Olympic game, scored with 1:07 remaining in the second period for her 11th career Olympic goal to tie Jenny Potter for third on the USA list.
Unlike the high-scoring Canadians, the U.S. has struggled with finishing chances while also playing without top-line center Brianna Decker, who broke her leg in a tournament-opening 5-2 win over Finland.
The struggles continued Monday following a scoreless first period in which the Americans had a 12-6 edge in shots. Finnish goalie Anni Keisala got her right pad out to make a spread-eagled stop on Amanda Kessel driving in on a breakaway, while Kelly Pannek was stopped trying to jam in a loose puck from atop the crease.
The Americans outshot the Finns 42-26.
WATCH | Full replay of Canada vs. Switzerland:
With files from The Canadian Press and Associated Press