Canada’s National Women’s Team will face their old foe, the United States, in the gold medal game of the 2011 4 Nations Cup, setting up the perfect learning experience for Canada’s young squad.
Jayne Hefford, Caroline Ouellette and Jennifer Wakefield scored Saturday to lead the Canadians to a 3-1 victory over Sweden in their final preliminary round game.
The Canadians, with five first-timers in their line-up, battle the Americans in Sunday’s gold medal game.
“It’s one of the reasons we brought some of the younger players, was to throw them into the fire and get them opportunities to play at the highest level against the stiffest competition,” said Canadian head coach Dan Church.
Ouellette opened the scoring in the second period before Elin Holmlöv tied it up three minutes later. Wakefield and Hefford scored two minutes apart early in the third as Canada pulled away.
Meghan Agosta had two assists.
Shannon Szabados made 27 saves for Canada, while Kim Martin stopped 49 shots in Sweden’s net.
The Canadians defeated the U.S. 3-1 in the preliminary round earlier in the week, and Ouellette said she’s pleased with how her young teammates rose to the challenge against their long-time rivals.
“I think the more the game went on, the more confidence everyone played with, and I think it was good for us to get that win because for those young players now, they know they can keep up and play against them and they know what to expect,” Ouellette said.
“We know though that (Sunday), the game is going to gain a whole other level of intensity and we’ll have to match that for sure.”
The Americans clobbered Finland 10-0 to cap the preliminary round Saturday.
But Ouellette said that score line, and the fact Canada only beat Sweden by a pair of goals, was no reason for concern heading into the final.
“It’s a totally different game when we play the U.S., it’s really north-south, really quick transition game,” Ouellette said. “When we play the European teams, often it’s more about being patient and finding the opening, because often they trap or they play really tight around the scoring area. We weren’t showing that patience or that poise that we would have needed to be more successful.
“But I think we have a fast team, we did good on transition last game (versus the U.S.), and I think that we will be able to do all that again.”
Church said the Canadians could use the tight game against Sweden to their advantage.
“If I was to choose one of two ways to go in, we would want a tougher test going into the final as opposed to having an easier game,” said the coach. “I think it allows us to be a little bit more battle-tested, which is good for us.”
Sunday’s game marks No. 101 between the women’s hockey rivals. Canada has a 61-38-1 edge.
The Canadians have won 12 gold and three silver medals in Four Nations and Three Nations tournaments since the first in 1996.
IHLC: With the win, Canada wins their third straight game during their record 25th International Hockey Lineal Championship reign, which they won from Finland at the start of the Four Nations Cup. This marks the first meeting between these two since the shocking 6-4 Swedish victory at the Twelve Nations Tournament last August. Canada now advances to their tenth consecutive Four Nations Cup Gold Medal Game against the United States, seeking their 13th Gold in history, and taking the IHLC along with.
01:14 – PEN – Hefford, tripping
16:37 – PEN – Löwenhielm, hooking
29:48 – GOAL – Ouellette (Wickenheiser)
32:40 – GOAL – Holmlöv
37:24 – PEN – Larocque, holding
39:05 – PEN – Fortino, hooking
41:56 – GOAL – Wakefield (Fortino, Agosta)
43:30 – PEN – Vikdahl, tripping
43:46 – PP GOAL – Hefford (Agosta, Larocque)
45:02 – PEN – Apps, body checking
W: Szabados (27-28)
L: Martin (49-52)
SHOTS ON GOAL
18+14+20 = 52
11+8+9 = 28
Goaltenders: Charline Labonté, Shannon Szabados. Defence: Courtney Birchard, Laura Fortino, Jocelyne Larocque, Stefanie McKeough, Cassandra Poudrier, Bobbi Jo Slusar. Forwards: Meghan Agosta, Gillian Apps, Vicki Bendus, Mélodie Daoust, Jayna Hefford, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Caroline Ouellette, Jesse Scanzano, Natalie Spooner, Jennifer Wakefield, Hayley Wickenheiser.
Goaltenders: Sara Grahn, Kim Martin. Defence: Emilia Andersson, Linnea Bäckman, Johanna Fällman, Linnea Hedin, Frida Nevalainen, Johanna Olofsson, Kristina Vikdahl. Forwards: Gizela Blom, Emma Eliasson, Tina Enström, Elin Holmlöv, Erika Holst, Lisa Johansson, Michelle Löwenhielm, Klara Myrén, Danijela Rundqvist, Rebecca Stenberg, Lina Wester, Pernilla Winberg.