Women going for gold

Game eight years in the making

By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency


Canada's Cherie Piper celebrates her goal during Olympic women's hockey semifinal action at GM Place in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, Feb. 22, 2010. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)


VANCOUVER — With the U.S. having done its part earlier in the day, it was up to Canada to live up to its hype as a heavy favourite in the Olympic women’s hockey tournament Monday night.

It did just that with a 5-0 win over Finland in a semifinal game that, while not as lopsided as Canada’s others in this tournament, did the job just fine, putting the home nation in Thursday’s gold-medal game against the rival Americans.

Haley Irwin scored twice and goalie Shannon Szabados shut down the few chances the Finns generated, as Canada won its fourth straight game and advanced to its fourth consecutive Olympic gold-medal final. It has won the previous two.

The Canadians got a sense of the atmosphere they’ll experience Thursday when the sellout, flag-waving crowd at GM Place broke into a spontaneous rendition of the national anthem with a few minutes left.

A standing ovation accompanied the final horn, the noise deafening.

With a huge gap between the two North American teams here and everybody else, it wasn’t a matter of if Canada would beat Finland, but rather by how much.

If there is a concern with Canada’s game, based on last night, it would be the powerplay, which isn’t firing on as many cylinders as Team USA’s.

The Canadian penalty killers, though, looked strong, generating as many chances shorthanded as the Finns did with the man-advantage.

If goals for and against are any indication, Canada has a slight edge, out-scoring its opposition 46-2 through four games, compared to a 40-2 edge for the U.S.

Games against common opponents tell a mixed story.

Canada beat Finland by five, the U.S. managed a 6-0 win over the Finns in the preliminary round.

Against the Swedes, Canada romped by a count of 13-1, compared to the 9-1 American win over Sweden in Monday’s semifinal, a game in which the Americans got a taste of the hostile crowd.

“It’s not something we need to focus too much on,” U.S. forward Monique Lamourieux said. “You know the crowd’s going to be big, you know they’re going to be loud and you know they’re going to be cheering against you. But you’ve got to take care of business.”

The U.S. is clearly not on friendly soil, as the majority of the crowd was pulling for the Swedes.

“I expect them to be like at the U.S.-Canada men’s game,” Lamourieux said. “Playing in front of a crowd like that’s awesome. I can’t wait. I don’t care if they’re not cheering for me.”

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

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