Hockey Canada

Canada in women's world hockey final after routing Russia

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The Canadian Press
4/8/2013 11:43:25 PM
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OTTAWA -- Canada won last year's women's world hockey championship on American ice, so the United States would like nothing more than to win it in Canada.

The two countries will extend their streak of playing each other for world championship gold to 15 times Tuesday at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place.

Canada edged the Americans 5-4 in overtime to take the gold in Burlington, Vt., last year. The U.S. had beaten them in three previous world championship finals.

Canada has outscored its opposition 32-3 and the U.S. 14-5 heading into this year's championship game.

Canada's head coach Dan Church downplayed his team's scores during the tournament and simply asked his players to up their performance each game.

"I'm looking forward to seeing our best game of the tournament," Church said.

The defending champions downed Russia 8-1 in Monday's semifinal. The Americans were held scoreless for 53 minutes before beating Finland in the other semifinal.

Marie-Philip Poulin led Canada with a pair of goals in front of 7,255. The hosts also got scoring from Haley Irwin, Natalie Spooner, Jennifer Wakefield, Meghan Agosta-Marciano, Rebecca Johnston and Jayna Hefford.

Shannon Szabados made 18 saves for the win. Canada's starter in every final since the 2010 Winter Olympics is expected to be back in net for the final.

It wouldn't surprising if U.S. goaltender Jessie Vetter also played her second game in as many days, which would make it a battle of goaltenders from the 2010 Olympic final.

The hosts opened the 2013 world championship with a 3-2 shootout win over the U.S. despite trailing them 2-0 into the third period.

Canada paid a price for that win as captain Hayley Wickenheiser sat out the next two games with a back injury and assistant captain Caroline Ouellette was scratched for a game with an upper-body injury.

"We dominated the play for 50 minutes and gave up 10 and look where it ended up, in a shootout," U.S. forward Hilary Knight said.

"If we just take care of the puck do the little things, grind them out, be disciplined, I think we have all the talent we need in the locker-room right now."

Wickenheiser returned to Canada's lineup for Monday's semifinal. She played fewer shifts once her team had firm control of the game.

These two countries have met in every world and Olympic women's final with the exception of the 2006 Winter Olympics, when Sweden upset the Americans in the semifinal.

As heated as their rivalry is, Canada and the U.S. are each other's favourite opponents.

"It's those types of games that we want, we train for, to play games that you don't know how they're going to finish and it can go one way or the other many times in the game," Ouellette said.

Added Knight: "We play them however many times in your career and those are the moments you live for. That's when the crowd is the biggest and when the rivalry is the deepest."

The tournament opener between Canada and the U.S. at Scotiabank set a single-game record for attendance at a female hockey game of over 18,000. There were still tickets available for Tuesday's final.

U.S. coach Katey Stone played down the motivation of revenge for 2012 for her team. The Americans just want that world title back.

"We don't need any incentive, trust me. Nor do they," Stone said. "We're just trying to win a gold medal and it could be on the moon for all we care."

The U.S. is the faster team of the two and boasts a quicker transition game. Canada has bigger forwards and can use that size down low in the offensive zone to create space.

"It's going to be a track meet," Stone vowed.

Church would rather not get into a footrace with the Americans.

"I think it will be a great end-to-end game, but one of our keys will be to kill their speed through the neutral zone and not give then odd-man rushes," the coach said. "I think it will be fast, skilled and physical like every Canada-U.S. games."

Canada will have to move the puck in the face of the U.S. forecheck with chips and short passes and the forwards coming back to support the defence on breakouts.

"It's close, quick support and our defence has to turn it up the ice quickly and make short passes," Wickenheiser said. "They like to play off the rush, play with speed and not get bumped. I think it's going to be a game of execution.

"It's got to be a game of who is going to make the best plays and then at the end of the day goaltending. It's what it always is."

Canadian women's hockey celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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