As expected, it will be a Canada-United States gold medal final tonight.
The line of Danielle Goyette, Vicky Sunohara, and Kelly Bechard combined for eight points in the first period as Canada beat a pesky Finland squad 5-0 in the 2007 World Women's Hockey Championship qualifying round at MTS Centre last night.
Canada will try to take back the world title from the Americans, who beat the home side 1-0 in a shootout at the 2005 championship. Earlier in the tournament, Canada beat the U.S. 5-4 (shootout) in a qualifying game on Saturday, and through 72 women's hockey matches played between the two countries, the Maple Leaves hold a 43-28-1 advantage over the Yanks.
"We're exactly where we want to be," said Bechard afterwards. "I thought that we could still be better going into (tonight's) game but we had some positives (last night). Finland really likes to trap and make it tough for us to break out...we did some things well."
The bronze medal game will be a grudge match, as well. Finland will now face rival Sweden (3:30 p.m.) in the warm up to the gold medal final (7:30 p.m., TSN). The Finns beat the Swedes 1-0 in overtime earlier in the week.
Last night, much like the earlier game against the Americans, Canada did not have the start it wanted. Missed passes and glaring mental mistakes put the game on even ground for the first 10 minutes, as the Finns looked like the better team on the basis of the three or four 2-on-1 chances they had.
Melody Davidson's group finally settled into their usual routine when Bechard capitalized on a Goyette feed from the behind the net at the 10:25 mark of the first. Tessa Bonhomme made it 2-0 Canada when she rifled a shot towards Noora Raty. Raty, the 17-year-old Finnish keeper, couldn't handle the blast and the puck went up and over her, trickling into the net.
The Canucks added one more in the period when Goyette deposited a Sunohara pass on an odd-woman rush. That took the wind out of the sails of the Finnish side, who despite working hard and creating chances for themselves, had nothing to show for it.
Hayley Wickenheiser and Gina Kingsbury had the other goals. The Canadian captain continues to display her 'top women's player in the world' status, leading all scorers in the tournament with seven goals and six assists. She feels people haven't seen Canada's best game yet.
"Hopefully we're saving it for (tonight)," Wickenheiser said. "It's been a little bit up and down for us in the tournament. We have to be a little more consistent (tonight) ... every player in the room knows what it takes."
Despite allowing five goals, Raty was excellent against the stiffer competition. The Espoo-native faced 44 shots, while Kim St. Pierre made 22 saves for the shutout.
NOTES: A crowd of 10,691 took in the game ... Hockey Canada honoured past Manitoba-based world championship teams, as banners were raised to celebrate the efforts of the 1920 Winnipeg Falcons, the 1931 University of Manitoba Grads, the Winnipegs (1932), and the 1935 Winnipeg Monarchs to the MTS Centre rafters.