Hockey

Mike Brophy - Tuesday Feb. 11, 2014 17:52 ET

Canada prepares to face bitter rival U.S. in women's hockey

Both teams undefeated in preliminary action

Hefford and Schleper in Canada-USA IIHF game
Canada's Jayna Hefford is chased by Anne Schleper of Team USA during the IIHF Women's World Championship gold medal game on April 9, 2013 (Richard Wolowicz/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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It will be a battle of the titans.

The much-anticipated first meeting between bitter rivals Canada and the United States will be played Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. ET, streaming at cbc.ca/olympics.

“As far as the rivalry, there is no love lost,” said Canadian veteran forward Hayley Wickenheiser. “There is a lot of (2013 World Championship) redemption in all of us.”

The Americans won the 2013 World Championship gold medal in Ottawa. Canada, meanwhile, has won the gold medal in the last three Olympic Games.

Both teams are undefeated following two games of the preliminary round; Canada defeated Switzerland 5-0 and Finland 3-0 while the Unites States beat Finland 3-1 and crushed Switzerland 9-0.

Canada and the United States engaged in a seven game exhibition series leading up to the Olympics, with the Canadians winning the first three games and the Americans the final four. In two of the games there were line brawls between the two clubs that intensely dislike one another.

“We get asked a lot about the rivalry,” said Canada’s Jayna Hefford. “I think it’s one of the best in sports and it has been fierce.”

Added Caroline Ouellette: “It is emotional. We have the same passion for our countries. Some of us are friends. We played or are playing on college teams together. But that just adds to it.”

High power offence

The United States established two Olympic records in its 9-0 win over Switzerland Monday. The Americans set a mark for the fastest three goals in a game, scoring them in 55 seconds in the opening period. They also set a record for the fastest five goals in a game, netting them in 6:22, also in the first period.

“It’s very hard for anyone to stay with us,” said forward Amanda Kessel. “We keep winning and we rely on our speed.”

Top scorers

To nobody’s surprise, the United States and Canada rule the scoring leaderboard after two games at the Olympic tournament.

Four players – three from the United States and one from Canada – sit atop the scoring parade with four points each. Americans Kendall Coyne, Kessel and Hilary Knight and Canadian Rebecca Johnston each have two goals and two assists. Canadians Jayne Hefford, the top player in Canada’s 3-0 win over Finland Monday, and Marie-Philip Poulin each have a goal and two assists.

Kessel denied

Kessel twice had goals called back in the Switzerland game, denying her a hat trick.

“I don’t think I have scored an international hat trick before so that’s a bit of a disappointment,” Kessel said. “Maybe in the next match.”

Kessel didn’t get her hat trick, but the younger sister of NHL star Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs impressed her teammates nonetheless.

“Amanda has so much skill, she can drive the net and did that well (Monday), said Briana Decker. “She was just creating havoc. She has great eyes out there and she moved the puck well. She played a great game.”

Sitting on the fence

Asked who would win the gold medal, Canada or the United States, Finnish goalie Noora Raty wouldn’t favor one team over the other.

“They are two different teams,” Raty said. “The U.S. has speed and skills. Canada has a good system.”

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