Canada head coach Troy Ryan is embracing the cliché that defence wins championships ahead of tonight’s clash with the United States for gold at the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship.
Both squads have consistently blown out opponents en route to the championship game. The hosts have outscored opponents by a combined 31-5, while the Americans have outscored them 27-5.
Given the teams’ results so far in Calgary, it’d be easy to predict a high-scoring affair on Tuesday evening, but Ryan feels it’ll come down to structure and play without the puck.
“Both us and the Americans, we haven’t had to defend a whole lot,” Ryan said on Monday night.
“The team that decides to defend the best and transition from offence to defence and defence to offence the best is going to be the team that is successful. I think you’ll see us come out and play a very good transitional game and get in on the forecheck early and then find ways to contribute on special teams.”
“We’ve worked really hard to get to where we are and we’re right where we want to be, but we’re not done yet,” said Canadian forward Renata Fast. “This Canada - U.S.A. matchup is going to be exciting. I think the team is really prepared. We’re ready and it’s going to be really fun.”
Of course, the two squads have already met once at the tournament - a 5-1 Canada victory during the group stage. That game was never close, with the Canadians dominating from puck drop, scoring less than eight minutes in and chasing American starter Alex Cavallini midway through the second period.
“We didn’t earn it, we didn’t play our best, and we’re going to have to learn from it,” U.S. captain Kendall Coyne Schofield said afterwards. “We never played our game and that’s what went wrong.”
Despite that convincing win, Ryan was still looking to tinker with his group’s execution.
“I think there were some good things that came out of that game, but I still think there’s plenty of things we’ve got to improve on,” Ryan said. “We expect them to be better tomorrow, and we expect ourselves to be better tomorrow, so we expect a very good game.”
Canada continues to be led by veterans Mélodie Daoust, Natalie Spooner, and Brianne Jenner, who are the top three scorers in the tournament. Ann-Renee Desbiens has played a majority of the minutes in goal for the hosts.
Hilary Knight, Grace Zumwinkle, and Lee Stecklein have led the way for the Americans, with Cavallini getting most starts in net.
This gold-medal game is more than 24 months in the making.
The 2020 world championship in Halifax was cancelled due to the pandemic. The tournament was then scheduled for this past April before it was again cancelled. Calgary was then chosen as the new host.
The players have been in the bubble for over 40 days. That all ends after the medal ceremony on Tuesday evening.
"This is what we have been working toward for the past two years now, to be able to get back to the gold-medal game and have an opportunity to win another gold medal," U.S. defender Megan Keller said.
“We give ourselves a bit of time to look at this and figure out what we need to change for next time,” Stecklein said after the loss to the Canadians.
Five days later, “next time” has come and will air on TSN3 and TSN4 at 7:30 pm ET, 4:30 pm PT. The Swiss will face Finland in the bronze-medal game also on Tuesday (3:30 pm ET; 12:30 pm PT, TSN4).