Foes U.S., Canada women set to battle again on ice
There are no secrets between them. No tricks up their sleeves. No stones left unturned.
Both teams handled their semifinal opponents Monday, the Americans peppering Sweden’s goalies for 60 minutes in a 6-1 victory, the Canadians following with a 3-1 victory over Switzerland.
The U.S. won the first gold medal showdown in Nagano in ’98, when women’s hockey made its Olympic debut. Canada has won gold in every Winter Games since, twice with victories over the U.S. (2002, 2010).
U.S. coach Katey Stone, who starred at the University of New Hampshire, thought the Americans played on their heels in their loss to the Canadians. Against Sweden, she wanted her team back on its toes, pushing the puck, staying in attack mode.
Indeed, Team USA’s victory felt like a 60-minute power play. Probably 90 percent of the game was played within 40 feet of Sweden’s goal and the Americans outshot the Swedes, 70-9. Boork pulled goalie Valentina Wallner for Kim Martin Hasson in the second period.
Alex Carpenter, Kacey Bellamy of UNH, Monique Lamoureux, Megan Bozek, Amanda Kessel and Brianna Decker all scored goals. Decker and Bozek each had two assists.
“You gave us all kinds of fits at different moments of the game,” Stone said to Boork in the post-game news conference, but he was having none of it.
Other than Sweden’s 3-2 upset victory over Team USA in the semifinals in 2006, the women’s Olympic tournament has been a two-team deal. If the rest of the world can’t catch up soon, the game could be in danger of being removed from the Winter Olympics program.
But the players’ only responsibility is to play hard and let the pucks fall where they may. In the meantime, the U.S.-Canada rivalry burns brightly. It might not be as big as Red Sox-Yankees, Packers-Bears or Alabama-Auburn, but not for lack of intensity on the part of the players.
Before the Americans left for Sochi, they met with members of the 1998 team, the only U.S. team to win Olympic gold.
Standing in their way is Canada. The Americans will look across the ice and see women they have battled for years, in every corner of the hockey-playing globe. They will see players they respect but do not particularly like. Familiarity, after all, breeds contempt.
The feeling is mutual.