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Tuesday, April 4, 2000
Canada still fine tuning their game
MISSISSAUGA -- By all accounts, the Canada-Japan opener in Mississauga Monday night was a game everyone could predict.
But the play of Japan certainly impressed a hungry Team Canada, in search of their sixth World Hockey Championship.
While Canada won the game convincingly 9-0, there is still some molding to be done on a team that has some new faces in the lineup and have only been together for a short period of time.
"I think we came out slow and ... we should have come out a little bit stronger than what we did," said Geraldine Heaney, a veteran of all six world championships.
"I think Japan played a very good game with the talent that they have. I think they are very well coached. They're not going to score a lot of goals. Defensively, I think that they played us very strong."
Heaney saw this game as a way to get the butterflies out of the their younger players and to prepare for the rest of the week, playing in front of home-town crowds.
And for the team to go for another championship title, she feels that they have to step up their play going into Tuesday's game against defensive-minded China.
"I think we have to go out and play 110 per cent, and not think about the calibre of the team that we are playing, because there's only a few games to get ready for," she said.
"The semifinal is going to be a tough game and the finals. With just limited time being together, we have to use every game and every period to our advantage."
Cheryl Pounder, who collected a goal and two assists, gave credit to a spunky Japanese team that was full of youth and vigour.
"They really came out ... but they didn't give up at all throughout the game even as we started to score (more goals)," Pounder said.
"They really pressured us, and in their own zone, they started to clutch and grab. But we just tried to tug away and try to find the options, find people open and try not to get too overwhelmed by it, try not to force things."
The clutching and grabbing was one way the Japanese wanted to slow down the speedy Canadians, but ended up penalizing them six times during the game. However, Canada could only muster one goal with the man-advantage.
Veteran Therese Brisson, named Canadian team captain for the second straight year, liked what her team did during the game.
"I certainly think we have a lot of talent on this team, so the coaches have encouraged us to be creative and to move the puck and to build on the creative influences that we have upfront."
But they will have to make way for the "Great Wall" of China, goaltenders Huo Lina and Guo Hong, and their defense corps, known to keep most games a low-scoring affair.
"They're (China) a higher ranked team, so I think they're a better team, they have very good goaltending, they play very disciplined defence and they wait for their chances," said Brisson.
With a Canadian squad that can and will score in bunches, teams like China will certainly keep them honest and on their toes throughout the game. The only concern is to ensure that a team that waits when the time is right to strike does not succeed.
"This is a team that is very frustrating to play against because they play a very good defensive system," continued Brisson. "That will present challenges for us. At the same time, they've always capitalized on their chances that they do get, so it is important for us to tighten up and to make sure that we are looking after our responsibilities at both ends of the rink."