Another Canadian blow out
By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency
Canada's Marie-Philip Poulin, (29) celebrates her goal with teammate Meghan Agosta during first-period action at the UBC Thunderbird Arena in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)
VANCOUVER — Hammering new hockey countries is one thing.
But the Canadian women’s team laid a 13-1 beatdown on Sweden, the defending Olympic silver medallists.
They outshot the team they faced in the final four years ago in Turin 43-4 over the first two periods.
And they proved there is still no competitive balance in the women’s game.
“We’re not going to apologize for the way we play,” said Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser, who had five points in front of 5,483 Wednesday at UBC Thunderbird Arena. “Sure, you think about what it means for your sport. You want to build it up. You want people to watch (on TV). You want to play competitive games.
“I’ve played the Swedes enough to know that wasn’t them. I don’t know what happened.”
Swedish head coach Peter Elander thinks he knows what happened.
The developing teams in the women’s game got better over the past four years. But the rate at which the Canadians and the Americans also improved outstripped that advancement.
“We’re a better team than we were in Turin,” he said. “But Canada is the powerhouse of women’s hockey. Unfortunately, they didn’t stop their development.”
It has put the women’s game in a precarious position, and it has cast the Canadian team in an uncomfortable light.
“I remember watching in the men’s game, the Soviet Union in 1981 beat Sweden the same 13-1 at the world hockey championships,” Elander said. “They were a centralized team playing together and everyone complained it wasn’t fair.”
The Canadian woman are a centralized team, too. They test themselves all year against boys’ teams.
They’re the Red Army, just 30 years later.
“It’s not my job to worry about (the competitive balance),” Canadian head coach Melody Davidson said. “But as a human being, I do. How long has men’s hockey been in the Olympics and how long did it take (six teams) to be contenders?”
No one in women’s hockey wants to see the game erased from the Olympics before they get that chance.
“This is what we have once every four years,” Wickenheiser said. “I’ve lived in those (Scandinavian) countries. It starts with an attitude and funding dollars from their federations. They have some players in NCAA hockey. That’s where you start.”
But Wednesday, the end game of competitiveness looks a long way off.
Wickenheiser scored her 16th Olympic goal to pass former teammate Danielle Goyette for the all-time lead.
But at this rate, that record won’t last long.
Meghan Agosta’s hat-trick before the game was half-over gave her eight goals so far, tying her with Goyette for most in a single Olympics.
The 23-year-old from Ruthven, Ont., has 14 career goals. She scored six in Turin.
The Swedish women absorbed their worst drubbing in Olympic history. Their previous low mark was an 11-0 pasting by the Canadians in Nagano.
The Canadians had a dozen goals before the game was 32 minutes old.
Sweden’s world-class goalie Kim Martin, the top puckstopper in Turin, was pulled after 10 goals. Elander called a timeout late in the first when it was already 5-0.
At least the Swedes know their top goalie. Davidson has to pick a semifinal starter from Kim St-Pierre, Shannon Szabados and Charline Labonte, and none of them have faced more than a handful of shots.
The Canadians don’t play their semi until Monday. They can’t get into GM Place until then because of the men’s tournament.
“Four days in between is a lot and when we saw the schedule, we weren’t happy about it,” Davidson said. “But it’s not like it just fell on our heads. We knew it was coming. It’s good for our game to showcase it in the big rink (GM Place).”
So now, they wait.
For the next game. For the inevitable showdown with the Americans.
And, most importantly, for another country to catch up.