Hilary Knight could think of no better way to wrap out the women’s hockey competition at the Beijing Olympics than a rematch between the United States and — who else? — Canada, with the gold medal on the line.
The championship will be decided between the world’s two great powers on Thursday, during an Olympic event criticized for lacking equity due to too many lopsided scores — and big on predictability with the US and Canada once again dominating. It will be the latest chapter in a savage rivalry that stretches back to the United States’ victory over Canada at the Nagano Games in 1998, the first to feature women’s hockey.
“You know, I think hockey is fantastic.” “It’s the most beautiful rivalry in sports,” Knight remarked after the US beat Finland 4-1 in the semifinals on Monday. “At the same time, it brings out the best and the worst in each of us.” It’s also a fantastic game.”
In a 10-3 triumph over Switzerland earlier in the day, Canada set an Olympic record by scoring five goals in the first period in a time span of 3:24.
The United States and Canada will meet for the sixth time in seven Olympics to compete for gold. The 2006 Turin Games were the only exception, with Canada defeating Sweden in the final after the Swedes had eliminated the Americans in the quarterfinals.
While the United States is the defending Olympic champion after a 3-2 shootout victory at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Canada is the favorite in Beijing. The Canadians have a perfect 6-0 record in the competition, outscoring opponents 54-8, including a 4-2 triumph against the United States in the preliminary round last week.
Marie-Philip Poulin, the captain of Canada, who scored two goals against the Swiss, said it didn’t matter who her side faced in the final.
“We put forth a lot of effort to get to this point. Poulin explained, “We’ve been working for four years.” “I believe we are deserving of it.”
Sarah Nurse of Canada, on the other hand, was looking forward to restarting the competition.
Nurse, who had four assists, said, “Obviously, facing the United States is always a fantastic game, always an interesting rivalry.” “The fact that we get to play another game in the Olympics is our main objective.” We arrived with the intention of playing seven games. “We wanted the gold-medal game to be the last one.”
They will be greeted by Americans who are eager to see them.
Cayla Barnes got a goal and an assist versus Finland, while Hayley Scamurra and Abby Roque each added an empty-netter. Alex Cavallini made 25 saves, but Susanna Tapani’s goal with 26 seconds left ended her shutout attempt.
Finland will meet Switzerland in the bronze-medal game on Wednesday, in a rematch of the world championship matches from August, when Canada defeated the United States 3-2 in overtime in the title game. With a 3-1 victory over the Swiss, Finland took bronze.
Barnes scored a power-play goal against the Finns at 3:39 of the second period, pinching in from the right point to convert Hannah Brandt’s feed through the net. Tanja Niskanen’s tripping was called into doubt as it looked that she fell on her own.
Jusso Toivola, Finland’s coach, tried to be conciliatory in his criticism of the decision.
“Do I need to respond?” Toivola remarked. “I don’t usually criticize referees, but that call bothered me.”
He was particularly frustrated by his team’s inability to control the Americans’ pace in the second quarter.
Knight, who was playing in her record-tying 21st Olympic game for the US women’s team, scored the game-winning goal with 1:07 left in the second period. Knight rushed to the lost puck to the left of the net after Savannah Harmon’s original shot was blocked, and she snapped it in for her 11th career Olympic goal, matching Jenny Potter for third on the US history.
Finland’s Anni Keisala made 38 saves.
With a four-line deep, constantly attacking style of offense, the Canadians have been the tournament’s most dominant team, setting the standard in how the women’s game is played.
“Right now, I believe we’re bringing the game to new heights,” Nurse remarked. “We’re playing a kind of hockey that hasn’t been seen before in our competition.” As a result, other countries will be playing our style of play in 5-10 years, and we’ll continue to push the edge and improve our sport.”
The five goals scored in under 3 1/2 minutes beat the previous record established by the Canadians in 2010, when they scored five times in a 4:03 stretch in a 13-1 triumph over Sweden.
The bombardment astounded Switzerland coach Colin Muller, who was astounded by how rapidly everything fell apart.
“We just experienced a four-minute outage,” he explained. “You can’t give them that momentum because when they smell blood, they’re like sharks.” And once they’ve had a taste of it, they’re gone.”
Unlike the high-scoring Canadians, the United States has failed to convert scoring chances while also missing top-line center Brianna Decker, who injured her leg in the tournament’s first game against Finland.
Following a scoreless first quarter in which the Americans held a 12-6 shooting advantage, the problems continued on Monday. Keisala used her right pad to make a spread-eagled stop on Amanda Kessel on a breakaway, while Kelly Pannek was stopped from atop the crease trying to jam in a loose puck.
The Americans had a 42-26 shot advantage against the Finns.
With 28 goals on 334 shots, the United States is sixth out of ten teams in scoring efficiency. The Americans’ power play is ranked fourth in the league, having converted six of their 26 attempts.