Canucks win a laugher

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Canada 16

Italy 0

TURIN -- Mamma mia!

Didn't anybody teach the Canadian women's team any manners?

Team Canada walked into the Palasport Olympico last night, outshot the host Italians 65-5 and kicked their butts in an ugly 16-0 victory to open the Olympic Games women's hockey tournament.

In a lot of ways, this was a good practice for the Canadians against a weak Italian squad, which was given a berth in the tournament because of its host country status.

It should get a lot tougher for Canada when it faces Russia today (10:30 a.m., CBC).

"We expected (Italy) to be weak, but we also knew that it was important for us to win," said Team Canada forward Hayley Wickenheiser, who had a five-point night along with teammate Caroline Oullette (each had a hat trick).

"We were excited. It's the first game of the Olympics and you have to be excited.

"I don't really think that helped us improve at all. There was no pressure and no defensive play. We're obviously going to face a lot more pressure when we face Russia, and then the tournament is only going to improve from there with Sweden and Finland."

In fact, Canada was up 4-0 only four minutes into the first period. It was the Canucks' most decisive victory in three trips to the Olympics, but the gap was important because goal differential plays a role in deciding who will be the home team in the gold-medal game.

"After 30 minutes, we just kind of tried to focus on ourselves," said Canadian forward Cherie Piper, who had six assists. "We wanted to work on our forechecking and moving the puck, so there were areas where we tried to improve."

Canadian goalie Kim St-Pierre recorded the shutout, but perhaps the player wearing the widest smile was her Italian counterpart, Debora Montanari. She left after facing 47 shots in two periods and looked pretty relieved.

"We have 150 women playing hockey in Italy," Montanari said. " I (said) to one of my teammates after the second goal, 'Is every 20 minutes going to be like so?' "

Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said part of the reason the country is dominating is because generally the competition has improved dramatically.

"The thing people forget is that we are that much better," he said. "Those teams are coming, but we keep improving. By 2010, we're going to have some competition."

With people wondering if the IOC might review women's hockey as a sport because Canada and the United States are so dominant, IIHF president Rene Fasel came to the sport's defence.

"There are 130,000 women playing hockey in the world: 65,000 are in Canada and 51,000 are in the United States," he said. "We have eight teams here and we're going to have some (big scores), but we feel this is a sport that will improve."

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@OTT.SUNPUB.COM


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