U.S. women itching to face Canada
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
American goalie Jessie Vetter (31) and defenceman Molly Engstromin celebrate after beating Sweden 9-1 in the women's hockey semifinal at the Vancouver Olympics Monday, Feb. 22, 2010. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
VANCOUVER — Revenge for Turin, a confidence boost and a message to Team Canada — Team USA managed to accomplish all three in its semifinal against Sweden Monday.
A 9-1 slaughter of the Swedes vaulted the Americans into Thursday’s gold-medal game and set up a much-anticipated Canada-U.S. finale to the Olympic women’s hockey tournament.
Avenging a loss to Sweden in the last Olympic semifinal, in Turin, the Americans declared themselves ready to take on the defending Olympic champions.
“There’s really nothing better than a USA-Canada matchup,” U.S. defenceman Erika Lawler said.
In fact, it was a USA-Canada matchup, Sunday’s men’s game, that provided a healthy dose of inspiration for the American women.
If they needed an example of how to beat the big dog in its own back yard, they got it in that 5-3 U.S. win.
“For them to be able to do that on Canada soil was awesome,” forward Monique Lamoureux said. “No one was really expecting them to win. I mean, world juniors, now our Olympic men’s team — hopefully it’ll move on to us, next.”
Lamoureux scored three goals as the U.S. outshot Sweden 46-12, erasing any notion that Sweden might be ready to compete with the world’s two powers.
Two of Lamoureux’s goals came on the powerplay, where the U.S. has boasted the tournament’s most deadly attack, clicking at a better than 50% rate.
Out-scoring its opposition 40-2, the U.S. —like Canada — has steam-rolled to four straight wins, and is brimming with confidence.
“We have four solid lines,” veteran Jenny Potter said. “We can put anyone out there. Anyone can score, anyone can kill penalties, powerplay. It’s a great team.”
The Americans made Swedish goalie Kim Martin, one of the heroes of the Turin upset, look ordinary, at best.
And Swedish forward Maria Rooth, the goal-scorer who knocked the U.S. from gold-medal contention four years ago, was nearly invisible. She has yet to score in this tournament.
And so it all comes down to the game everybody expected. Canada, the heavy favourite, under all the pressure in front of the home crowd, and its neighbour to the south, a team determined to spoil the party.
You wonder just how far the inspiration from the men’s team can carry them.
“Right into the gold-medal game,” Potter said. “There’s no stopping an American team if we play like that.”
Canada, consider yourself warned.