Goalie has the inside track to start

ADAM WAZNY

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

If the pattern holds true to form, the United States will have a 21-year-old between the pipes in the marquee matchup of the World Women's Hockey Championship.

Jessie Vetter, going through her first international appearances in Winnipeg and Selkirk this week, could make her second straight start against the Canadians in the gold medal game tomorrow, should the home country beat Finland today (7:30 p.m., MTS Centre, TSN).

She looks to have the inside track, given she's seen what the Canadians (again, should they get past the Finns) bring to the table.

"I was a little surprised to get the start, but I knew it wasn't for the world championship," Vetter said following the Americans' 5-4 shootout loss to the Canucks on Saturday. "It was definitely a good first game against Canada. I was very excited to be out there."

Though he jokes that he picks his starting goaltenders out of a hat, coach Mark Johnson has mirrored what Canadian coach Melody Davidson has done, alternating goaltenders through the first three games of the worlds. He went with Vetter to open the event against Kazakhstan, where she wasn't tested. Against Canada on Saturday, Vetter was tested early and often, receiving a passing grade from Johnson.

"We started a rotation when we started the tournament, and we wanted to give Jess an opportunity to play in a game of (that) magnitude and see what she's made of, see if she can handle the pressure, see if she can handle any adversity that's thrown at her," he said. "I thought she did a pretty good job."

Last night, 27-year-old Chanda Gunn took the start in to date, the most important game for the Americans in the tournament. Needing a win, the bronze medal-winner at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turino made her case with a 13-save performance in a 4-0 over Finland in the qualifying round, putting the Americans in a position to defend their world title. Johnson, who coaches Vetter at the University of Wisconsin, will sit down with his coaching staff today and look at the play of both goaltenders in the event and select the netminder they want to stop Canada.

It would be a shock if Vetter didn't get the call tomorrow. Despite her age and relative inexperience (compared with the four years of international action Gunn brings), the Wisconsin starter is coming off back-to-back NCAA Frozen Four titles with the Badgers.


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