Wickenheiser gives props to rival Potter

PAUL FRIESEN and ADAM WAZNY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

It's one thing to be called the best player in the world.

When Team Canada's Hayley Wickenheiser is the one doing the talking, you sit up and take notice.

The Sun asked Wickenheiser for her take on the top player in women's hockey today, present company excluded, and the first name out of her mouth was Jenny Potter of the U.S.

"Really?" a surprised Potter said. "That's a pretty great compliment from a great player."

In her sixth world championship, Potter, 28, has posted Wickenheiser-type numbers over the years: 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in 25 games, coming into this tournament.

Wickenheiser is also 28, with similar totals in the same period: 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 25 games.

"She has a lot of class," Potter said. "It's really hard for me to say there is a best women's player. There's a lot of great players. There might be leaders and some players who step it up in key situations, and Hayley definitely does that."

Wickenheiser has held the upper hand here, leading the tournament in scoring (seven goals, 13 points, including a goal against Finland last night). With two goals, two assists, here, this hasn't been Potter's best worlds.

More noticeable has been the U.S.'s top line of Natalie Darwitz, Krissy Wendell and Erika Lawler, all of whom are 25, or younger.

"They're one of the best lines in the world," Team Canada boss Melody Davidson said. "You definitely have to be aware when they're out there."

WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT: Some of the Canadian players insist the cross-border rivalry remains as bitter as ever.

Team USA's Angela Ruggiero says there's likely some method to their madness.

"They can think whatever they want. Maybe that's the way for them to motivate themselves," Ruggiero said. "I'd never use the word bitter. It's a rivalry that brings out the best in both teams. We're playing for ourselves and our country.

"Of course, you see the Maple Leaf and, yeah, you go a little harder. But you have to go a little harder to win the game."

GOLD OR BUST: So it's either a gold medal tonight, or a complete failure for Team Canada, right? Don't tell that to Davidson.

"I wouldn't say it's a failure," the coach said. "Sometimes it might just be the bounce of the puck. Other times it might be that we didn't bring our best game. But we're going to do everything we can to bring our best game to the table."

NIX THE DISTRACTIONS: After Saturday's so-so outing against the U.S., Davidson suggested her team could have dealt better with all the distractions. Yesterday, she wondered aloud if there might not be too much fanfare surrounding Team Canada at these events.

"Maybe some of that stuff we've got to look at," Davidson said. "Just prepare them to play and not have receptions ... who knows? It's a mystery to me."

CLOSE TO HOME: Following the U.S.-Finland game Sunday, a crowd of about 75 Red, White, and Blue supporters were waiting for the players at MTS Centre. Leading the group was a large contingent from Warroad, Minn. -- the original Hockeytown, U.S.A., and the home of Gigi Marvin.

"Warroad is only six minutes from the border, so I'm very fortunate," the young forward said this week.

Warroad is home to the Marvin Windows factory. That's the family connection for Gigi, meaning more than a few friends and relatives (about 20) have come up to watch her skate in her first world championship.

"Let's see, parents, little cousins, aunts, uncles, and some friends," Marvin said, listing off who is here to cheer her and her team on. "A couple kids up here are more excited because they get to miss school."


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