Canada is golden again in women’s Olympic hockey.
The Canadian women’s hockey team defended the gold medals won at the 2002 and 2006 Olympic Games with a 2-0 win over archrival U.S. on Thursday at Canada Hockey Place.
Marie-Philip Poulin of Beauceville, Que., the youngest player on the Canadian team at 18, scored a pair of goals in the first period, showing off her soft hands and quick release. Edmonton goaltender Shannon Szabados stopped all 29 shots for the shutout.
Szabados was an intriguing choice in net for her first start in an Olympic or world championship final. Coach Melody Davidson went with the 23-year-old over veterans Charline Labonté, the winning goalie in the 2006 Olympic final, and Kim St-Pierre, the starter in the 2002 championship game.
Szabados showed no rookie nerves to start the game, however. She came out of her net to play the puck and made glove saves with confidence. She kept the Americans off the scoreboard during five-on-three chances at the start of both the first and second periods. U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter made 27 saves.
Centre Meghan Agosta of Ruthven, Ont., was named tournament MVP.
“This medal is Canada’s medal,” said Agosta. “To be able to win a gold medal on home soil is an honour. We’re going to cherish the moment for the rest of our lives.”
Szabados was named to the all-star team, which also included American defencemen Angela Ruggiero and Molly Engstrom and forwards Agosta, Poulin and Jenny Potter of the U.S.
The Canadian men, who meet Slovakia in Friday’s semifinal, were on hand to watch the gold medal performance.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was also there, sitting with Wayne Gretzky and his wife Janet. Harper joined the team in the dressing room after the game.
“On behalf of the entire country, all Canadians, you made us proud tonight,” he told them. “You played a great game. Canada’s game. Tonight, you’re the best in the world. Enjoy this moment for the rest of your life.”
After the win, a few Canadian players skated around the ice waving a Canadian flag with a gold Maple Leaf in the centre while Becky Kellar brought her son Zach on the ice to help celebrate.
Fans cheered every Canadian player as they got their medals, with an especially loud reception for captain Hayley Wickenheiser and Poulin.
“We knew we were the best team. We just had to perform,” said Wickenheiser, who talked of the Canadian squad’s long, hard preparation. “I’m too tired to cry right now, but when I see my family I might.”
Defenceman Carla MacLeod of Calgary said the win on home soil was sweeter than four years ago in Turin.
“It feels better don’t kid yourself,” she said. “Look at it out there. This is unbelievable to have this many family and friends. We wanted it really bad.”
The three-peat Canadian club includes St-Pierre, Kellar, Wickenheiser, Cherie Piper, Colleen Sostorics, Caroline Ouellette, Jayna Hefford and Jennifer Botterill.
It was a dominant tournament for the Canadian women, who outscored their opposition 48-2 in five games. The Canadians opened with an 18-0 win over Slovakia and never looked back.
Davidson built her team with skilled defencemen who could generate scoring chances from the back end. The Canadian women rushed the puck through the neutral zone and went for the stretch pass a few times in the third period.
Canada respected the speed and skill of the U.S., however, and made sure to get a third man back when the U.S. gained control of the puck.
The Americans had to press for goals in the final minutes of the game, which created odd-man chances for Canada. Canada Hockey Place was on its feet in the final minute, anticipating the country’s first hockey gold of these Olympic Games.
The U.S. outshot Canada 14-10 in the second period, but the game remained 2-0 for the home team heading into the third.
The Americans swarmed Canada’s net to open a tense second period. Hefford shot the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty and then Kellar immediately did the same to give the U.S. a two-man advantage for a minute and a half. The Canadians blocked shots and Szabados kept seeing the puck well to kill off the penalty.
Poulin had Canada Hockey Place rocking in the first period with a pair of goals.
Thirty-four seconds after Canada killed off their penalty, Botterill skated the puck along the boards and sent it back to Poulin at the faceoff circle. She got a quick shot away over Vetter’s shoulder at 13:55.
After winning a faceoff in the offensive zone, the puck deflected back to her and she beat Vetter with a low shot at 16:50.
Canada and the U.S. have met in the final of every world championship. The Canadians have a 9-3 record, but the Americans have won the last two.
And there is little love between the two countries. Kacey Bellamy put an unfriendly glove in Haley Irwin’s face after the Canadian crashed the net and went down in the third period.
Agosta punched Monique Lamoureux after a whistle in the second period and got away with it. When U.S. forward Jocelyne Lamoureux skated to the bench without her helmet early in the game, Irwin flattened her.
Szabados also gave Jenny Potter an unfriendly shove when the veteran forward landed on her late in the first period.
03:49 – PEN – Schmidgall, hooking
08:18 – PEN – Chesson, hooking
10:00 – PEN – Kingsbury, body checking
11:21 – PEN – Ward, interference
13:55 – GOAL – Poulin (Botterill)
16:11 – PEN – Hefford, slashing
16:47 – PEN – Zaugg, hooking
16:50 – GOAL – Poulin (Agosta)
22:35 – PEN – Hefford, delay of game
22:58 – PEN – Kellar, delay of game
30:01 – PEN – Cahow, hooking
34:49 – PEN – Ruggiero, interference
36:56 – PEN – Hefford, diving
W: Szabados (28-28)
L: Vetter (27-29)
SHOTS ON GOAL
8+10+11 = 29
7+14+7 = 28
Goaltenders: Kim St-Pierre, 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: Molly Schaus, Jessie Vetter. Defence: Kacey Bellamy, Caitlin Cahow, Lisa Chesson, Molly Engstrom, Angela Ruggiero, Kerry Weiland. Forwards: Julie Chu (A), Natalie Darwitz (C), Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux, Monique Lamoureux, Erika Lawler, Gigi Marvin, Jenny Schmidgall (A), Kelli Stack, Karen Thatcher, Jinelle Zaugg.
|CANADA (C)||vs.||UNITED STATES|
(+ 1 tie)
|First IHLC Meeting (CAN vs. USA)
CAN 2-1 USA – 04/21/1987 – WWT – North York
|Previous IHLC Meeting (CAN vs. USA)
CAN 3-2 USA (SO) – 01/01/2010 – EX – Ottawa
|Last IHLC Game
CAN 5-0 FIN – 02/22/2010 – OG – Vancouver
|Next IHLC Game
USA 3-2 CAN (SO) – 11/09/2010 – FNC – St. John’s