The coach of the Canadian women’s hockey team feels they can’t win even when they do.
Prior to Monday’s 10-1 win over Switzerland to secure a semifinal berth in the Olympic tournament, the Canadians had received emails calling them “classless” and “disrespectful” for their 18-0 victory over Slovakia to open the tournament Saturday.
So for the first two periods against the Swiss, Canada played hard, but seemed to be holding back. After giving up their first goal ever to Switzerland late in the second period, head coach Melody Davidson reminded them they had only 10 periods left in this hockey tournament.
They’d worked too hard for six months not to battle as hard as they could, she said. Knowing they might be criticized for doing so, Canada rolled over the Swiss with five unanswered goals in the third period.
“They care a lot about the game, they care about what Canadians and the world thinks about them because they consider themselves leaders in the sport. It does drain them and it drains me,” Davidson said of the negative feedback.
“They’re caught between me telling them to work hard and battle and have good habits and what they have to deal with when they get off the ice.”
Davidson attended the world junior men’s championship in Saskatoon in January and says Canada received no such criticism when it outscored the opposition 30-2 in its first three games, including a 16-0 result against Latvia.
“It’s a no-win situation,” she said. “I think it’s a double standard and it’s quite unfair.”
Canada improved to 2-0 and punched its ticket to the semifinals of the Olympic tournament with Monday’s win. It wants a win over Sweden on Wednesday to finish first in its group.
The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals Feb. 22. The top seed crosses over to play the runner-up from the other pool in the semis. The final is Feb. 25.
Canada, the defending Olympic champion, has outscored its opposition 28-1 in its first two games. The 18 goals scored against Slovakia on Saturday were an Olympic women’s hockey record.
While Canada’s high goal output may seem unnecessary to some, should Canada and the United States meet in the final with the same record, the country with the better goal differential will be designated the home team.
“The goal differential is sort of secondary,” Davidson said. “It’s more about playing your best. We didn’t come here to put on a second-class show. We came here to play our best on any given day and hopefully win five hockey games.”
The 5,413 spectators at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Arena didn’t seem to mind when the Canadian women scored goals, as they were as enthusiastic for the 10th as they were for the first.
Meghan Agosta of Ruthven, Ont., paced Canada with a pair of goals. Jayna Hefford of Kingston, Ont., scored her second short-handed goal of the tournament. The hosts also got goals from Montreal’s Catherine Ward, Marie-Philip Poulin of Beauceville, Que., Toronto’s Cherie Piper, Gillian Apps of Unionville, Ont., Sarah Vaillancourt of Sherbrooke, Que., Hayley Wickenheiser of Shaunavon, Sask., and Rebecca Johnston of Sudbury, Ont.
Linemates Apps, Wickenheiser and Piper each had three-point nights.
Goaltender Shannon Szabados of Edmonton had 11 saves in the win. Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling stopped 45 of 55 shots, but was replaced by Dominique Slongo in the third period when the Swiss defence fell apart in the face of relentless Canadian pressure.
Defenceman Darcia Leimgruber scored Switzerland’s first goal ever against Canada with 13 seconds remaining in the second period.
Switzerland has been in and out of the world women’s ‘A’ championship over the years and often relegated to the ‘B’ tournament. A game against the Swiss is relatively rare for Canada. They’ve met only three times and their previous meeting was in the 2007 world championship in Winnipeg, where the hosts won 9-0.
The Swiss were quicker and didn’t turn the puck over as much as the Slovaks, but they lacked Canada’s ability to throw the puck onto the tape of a teammate’s stick. The moment Canada gained the puck, the Swiss immediately dropped back into a defensive posture.
Canada’s superior fitness and offensive talent wore the Swiss defence down in the third as Ward, Poulin, Johnston and Wickenheiser all scored within a three-minute span starting at 9:08.
The Canadian team overall had a size advantage over the smaller Swiss, so Apps was particularly effective. Her forte is throwing her six-foot, 177-pound frame around in front of the opposition’s net. She cleared space for herself and teammates and she finished the night with a goal and two assists.
Apps, the granddaughter of Hockey Hall of Famer and Toronto Maple Leaf legend Syl Apps, plays with such abandon there that she spends a fair amount of time on her back, knees, bottom and stomach.
“Not the most co-ordinated at times, but size and limbs going everywhere works to her advantage,” Wickenheiser said with a laugh. “That’s her game, to play like a big power forward like a Dave Andreychuk. It’s a hard role to play because it’s almost like an enforcer in the male game.”
Apps spends a fair amount of time in the penalty box because she often gets dinged for “big-girl penalties”, which happen when a smaller player runs into her. But Apps, who is second on the team all-time in penalty minutes, did not go to the box once Monday night.
“My job is not pretty, but I try to get it done,” Apps said. “I try and muck up the corners for my teammates.”
For those players who were on the Canadian team in 2006, when they opened with a 16-0 win over Italy, they are better able to shrug off accusations of running of the score better than the rookies.
“I don’t really feel like I’m apologizing too much. I think four years ago it was worse,” Wickenheiser said. “If they didn’t have the goal differential, it might be different, but at the same time, we work way too hard to come here and dump the puck in and sit back in a trap. People come to see goals and that’s part of it too.
“No apologies when you win. In hockey you want to be the best, so we shouldn’t be apologizing or second-guessing ourselves.”
05:27 – PEN – S. Marty, holding
06:27 – PP GOAL – Apps (Kingsbury, Piper)
10:24 – PEN – Meier, interference
12:11 – PEN – Johnston, slashing
14:25 – GOAL – Vaillancourt (Johnston)
16:44 – PEN – Nussbaum, holding
18:34 – PEN – Kingsbury, holding
22:19 – GOAL – Piper (Wickenheiser)
28:08 – GOAL – Agosta (Ward, Ouellette)
31:15 – GOAL – Agosta (Ouellette, Hefford)
35:25 – PEN – Ouellette, body checking
39:46 – GOAL – Leimgruber (Lehmann, S. Marty)
40:00 – PEN – Vaillancourt, holding
40:54 – SH GOAL – Hefford (Wickenheiser)
49:08 – GOAL – Ward
49:27 – GOAL – Poulin
50:43 – GOAL – Johnston (Vaillancourt, Kellar)
51:55 – GOAL – Wickenheiser (Piper, Apps)
53:55 – PEN – Irwin, high sticking
59:31 – PEN – Nussbaum, tripping
W: Szabados (11-12)
L: Schelling (45-55), Slongo (7-7)
SHOTS ON GOAL
16+21+25 = 62
2+7+3 = 12
Goaltenders: Charline Labonté, Shannon Szabados. Defence: Tessa Bonhomme, Becky Kellar, Carla MacLeod, Meaghan Mikkelson, Colleen Sostorics, Catherine Ward. Forwards: Meghan Agosta, Gillian Apps, Jennifer Botterill, Jayna Hefford (A), Haley Irwin, Rebecca Johnston, Gina Kingsbury, Caroline Ouellette (A), Cherie Piper, Marie-Philip Poulin, Sarah Vaillancourt, Hayley Wickenheiser (C).
Goaltenders: Florence Schelling, Dominique Slongo. Defence: Laura Benz, Angela Frautschi, Julia Marty (A), Lucrèce Nussbaum, Claudia Riechsteiner, Sandra Thalmann, Stefanie Wyss. Forwards: Sara Benz, Nicole Bullo, Melanie Häfliger, Kathrin Lehmann (C), Darcia Leimgruber, Stefanie Marty, Christine Meier (A), Rahel Michielin, Katrin Nabholz, Anja Stiefel, Sabrina Zollinger.
|First IHLC Meeting (CAN vs. SUI)
CAN 10-0 SUI – 04/21/1987 – WWT – North York
|Previous IHLC Meeting (CAN vs. SUI)
CAN 9-0 SUI – 04/03/2007 – WWC – Winnipeg
|Last IHLC Game
CAN 18-0 SVK – 02/13/2010 – OG – Vancouver
|Next IHLC Game
CAN 13-1 SWE – 02/17/2010 – OG – Vancouver