Get set for a barn burner as Canada, U.S. hockey women set to meet in Sochi

Canada's Brianne Jenner battles for the puck with Switzerland's Laura Benz during their women's ice...

Canada's Brianne Jenner battles for the puck with Switzerland's Laura Benz during their women's ice hockey game at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 8, 2014. (JIM YOUNG/Reuters)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:48 PM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - So much for women’s hockey not being competitive.

After having its hands full in Monday’s 3-0 win over Finland, Team Canada goes up against the U.S., their fiercest rivals, Wednesday in the final game of the preliminary round of the Olympic tournament.

How tense are Canada-USA relations?

“It is sort of like a Yankees-Red Sox type of rivalry. Very storied, very intense,” said Canada’s Brianne Jenner.

Throw in the fact there were line brawls in a couple of the games at the end of their exhibition series in the run-up to the Sochi Games and with Canada and the USA such prohibitive favourites, you can understand why this will be the second-most anticipated game of the tournament.

Regardless, both Canada and the U.S. will advance to the semfinals with the winner of Wednesday’s game getting “home-ice” advantage for a future meeting. The victors will also face the weakest opponent to emerge out of the quarterfinals in the semis.

The Canucks lost the last four games of their pre-Olympic exhibition series to the Americans, but Canada’s Melanie Daoust said a lot of factors were responsible for the result. There was intense off-ice training, a change in coaches from Dan Church to Kevin Dineen and cuts from the team.

Fans and the Americans won’t see that Canadian same team in Sochi.

“I don’t think they should expect that. They need to expect a little bit more of us,” said Daoust. “Of course we were in a big training part of our season and those games were in preparation for the journey that was coming up. There was a lot of change, a new coach, changes in the lineup.

“I think we will come up stronger and we expect the same from the U.S. I’m pretty sure they will expect the same thing. People can’t forget we also won at the beginning of the year against them. People can talk about those four losses, but we can talk about the three that we won.”

On Monday, there was no score through 50 minutes in Canada’s game against Finland, but a power-play goal by Meghan Agosta-Marciano put Canada ahead and Jayna Hefford and Rebecca Johnston put the game away.

“We played a hard game against Finland and we were patient. It was 50 minutes of even hockey, 0-0,” said Dineen. “Fortunately we were able to come out on top. It was a good game for us. That’s a good team. I was impressed with them. We’ve got one (Wednesday) that’s been talked about a lot. It’s finally here. It’s an exciting time for both teams.”

Wednesday’s matchup will feel very familiar.

“Every time we play the U.S. it’s a battle. It’s a game we look forward to,” said Team Canada captain Caroline Ouellette. “We know each other very well and we push the pace. It’s going to be another great game, I’m sure.”

Ouellette said she liked the way her team didn’t panic when tied late in the game against Finland.

“We stayed patient. We faced teams that played very tight defensively. I think tomorrow it’s going to be very different. It’s going to be a fast, back-and-forth game. We’ll have to play in our zone and we’ll have to play well. The U.S. has a lot of talent and they are going to create some offence. For us the main thing is going to be very solid defensively and trust that our defence is going to bring offence to our team.”

Given the way those exhibition matches melted down, there will be the anticipation of a physical game.

“If it heats up we’ll have to keep our calm,” said Canadian defenceman Catherine Ward.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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