Canada and USA set to resume rivalry in women’s ice hockey final
One of the greatest rivalries of the Olympic Winter Games will be renewed at PyeongChang 2018 when Canada and USA meet in the women’s ice hockey gold medal match at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Thursday 22 February.
It will be the fifth time in six editions of the Winter Games that the two nations will face off against each other. Canada will be looking to win their fifth successive Olympic gold, including a hat-trick of victories over the USA, after beating their neighbours in the finals at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014.
Marie-Philip Poulin scored two late goals to earn a dramatic 3-2 victory in overtime.
The Canadians have appeared in every Winter Games gold medal match since the inaugural women’s competition in Nagano in 1998, winning four of them and losing only one. Yet while they have a clear advantage over their neigbours on the Olympic stage, the USA have had the better of them in each of the last four world championship finals.
High fives all round
USA secured their place in the final by beating Finland 5-0. Dani Cameranesi scored twice and Gigi Marvin joined her on the scoresheet, while Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Hilary Knight scored goals 34 seconds apart. Lamoureux-Davidson is looking forward to the opportunity to face Canada once again.
“We’re super excited to be in this position,” she said after the USA’s victory against Finland. “We’ve worked four years to put ourselves in the position to compete for a gold medal and we’ll enjoy this for a little bit, but we know that this isn’t what we came here for.”
“It’s honestly a dream come true,” agreed fellow scorer Knight. “This is the world’s biggest stage. This is the game that you want, the game we’ve been dreaming of and to have another opportunity to get back here is huge.”
Canada were equally impressive in defeating the Olympic Athlete of Russia (OAR) team by the same scoreline in the second semi-final. Jennifer Wakefield scored twice and was joined on the scoresheet by Rebecca Johnston, Emily Clark and Poulin. Canada will now focus on beating their rivals and winning a fifth gold medal.
“This is something we’ve worked hard for all year and we have something special here,” said Canada’s Meghan Acosta, who is one of 14 players that formed part of the squad in Sochi. Acosta was also part of Canada’s victorious Olympic campaigns at Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010, and is now seeking to equal the record of four Olympic gold medals in women’s ice hockey.
“We have a lot of speed, talent and skill and we are ready,” she added. “Our coaching staff has prepared us and we just have to go out and play. Our team is the closest it has ever been and we are like a family. We need every person playing at their very best to be successful and we just have to carry the momentum.”
The biggest stage
“It is always a great match,” said Johnston on facing USA for gold. “We’ve been getting better throughout the tournament and that is what we are focusing on. We are both competitive teams and we both want to win that gold medal. Everyone will give it their all.”
“It’s one of the best rivalries in hockey. Not much more you can say,” added Canada’s Brianne Jenner. “It’s the biggest stage. It’s what we’ve been dreaming about since we were little girls. We’re going to enjoy that experience but once the puck’s dropped you’re on auto-pilot. You train so many hours for this that your body knows what to do and takes over.”
The two nations met in the preliminary round, with Canada winning 2-1 thanks to second-period goals from Sarah Nurse and Acosta, who could equal Hayley Wickenheiser’s record of most career goals at the Winter Games with another in the final.
“We had a lot of point-blank scoring opportunities,” said Lamoureux-Davidson of that defeat. “We’ve got to find a way to get those scrums in the net. We had a couple literally inches away from just putting some in, so we’ve got to find a way to just get those in the net.
“We were happy with how we played,” continued Lamoureux-Davidson, her side’s joint top-scorer at PyeongChang 2018 with three goals, alongside Cameranesi. “We outshot them two to one and we’re going to build off what we did and maybe fine-tune a few things. We’re confident to stick with what we’ve been doing and what has gotten us success the last few years.”