Canada's hockey women blank Switzerland in Olympic opener
Rebecca Johnston leads Canadian victory with 3 points
The result was to be expected.
Canada opened defence of its Olympic gold medal with an easy 5-0 win over Switzerland in its first game of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Given the fact Team Canada entered the event on shaky ground, having dropped four straight games to the United States in a seven-game pre-Olympic exhibition series, the victory was a welcome one.
Canada dominated the game right from the get-go and the outcome was never in doubt. That said, despite being severely outshot and outplayed, the Swiss played a tough, physical game and never folded its tent.
Canada outshot Switzerland 29-3 in the first period, setting the tone for the game. Overall, Canada outshot the Swiss 69-14.
Marie-Philip Poulin, who had a goal and an assist for Canada, said the players were pleased with the result, but weren’t especially happy with their third-period performance.
“The first and the second periods were a good start for us,” Poulin said. “Our third was a little bit of a struggle, but I think we can build off the first two periods for sure.”
That winning feeling
The victory over Switzerland marked the first win for coach Kevin Dineen, who took over from Dan Church after he resigned in December.
A beaming Poulin said Dineen has had a positive impact on the club.
“He knows a lot,” Poulin said. “He played the game and we have so much respect for him. It is such an honour to play for him.”
And the starter is…
Charlene Labonte was given the start in goal for the opening game of the 2014 Olympics. There was plenty of speculation that Shannon Szabados would be Canada’s No. 1 goalie in the tournament, and that may still happen.
Both players have enjoyed the experience of being the starting – and winning – goalie in an Olympic gold-medal game; Labonte in 2006 in Turin, Italy and Szabados in 2010 in Vancouver.
Friend or foe?
Florence Schelling got the start for Switzerland. She is a teammate of Canada’s Gillian Apps and Jayna Hefford with the Brampton Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Schelling was chosen the third star of the game, but probably should have been the first star. Her performance will surely help her erase the memory of Switzerland’s 10-1 loss to Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“She is one of the toughest goalies to play against,” Poulin said. “She is amazing. She is so humble. I have a lot of respect for her.”
Canada stormed the Swiss zone right from the drop of the first puck, and defenceman Jocelyne Larocque made it 1-0 with a shot from the point that went through a crowd in front of the net. Fellow defender Tara Watchorn scored on a rebound from in front of the goal at 6:30 to make it 2-0. Both players are in their first Olympics.
Canadian power play
If there was a concern for the Canadian coaching staff, it might be the team’s power play, which went 0-for-2. Both power plays occurred in the first period. Canada worked the puck around effectively, but didn’t produce significant scoring chances.
Wick is quick
Canada’s flag-bearer Hayley Wickenheiser gave Canada a 3-0 lead at 3:54 of the second period. She broke in alone while killing a penalty to teammate Lauriane Rougeau, and snapped home a short-handed goal high to the glove side of Schelling. It was Wickenheiser’s 17th goal in her fifth Olympic hockey tournament. So much for the supposed flag-bearer jinx.
Wickenheiser had a chance to add to her total midway through the second period, but shot wide on a breakaway.
Switzerland’s Phoebe Stanz had her team’s best scoring chance midway through the second period when she executed a wraparound and drilled a shot high to the short side that beat Labonte, but hit the post.
The Swiss had another scoring opportunity in the third period when a centering pass bounced off the leg of Canadian defenceman Meaghan Mikkelson and nearly deflected past Labonte, who had to reach back to grab it.
Don’t like the odds
Schelling put on a goaltending clinic through most of the first two periods, but when Canada broke in 3-on-0, she didn’t stand much of a chance. Not surprisingly, Poulin converted the rush to make it 4-0.
After review, goal stands
Rebecca Johnston tipped a shot past Schelling to make it 5-0, but the play was reviewed to see if the puck went in off her glove. It did not.
The stats say
Meghan Agosta-Marciano led Team Canada with seven shots on goal. Defenceman Catherine Ward led Canada in ice time with 21:51.
Glass half full
Swiss coach Rene Kammerer was pleased with his team's effort. In fact, when the game was completed, he said, "we had no breakdowns."
Just a hunch, but when he reviews the tape of the game, he may spot a few.
Canada will face Finland, which lost 3-1 to the United States in its Olympic opener on Tuesday morning (10:30 a.m. ET).