Canada's Olympic women’s hockey team survives scare vs. Finland
Takes on the U.S. on Wednesday
Some will continue to argue the women’s hockey tournament at the 2014 Winter Olympics remains a two-team race between Canada and the United States.
That may indeed be the case, but Finland threw a mighty scare into Team Canada on Monday. The Finns matched Canada’s speed and were the more aggressive team through the first two periods, but Canada’s offence took control in the third period scoring three goals, blanking Finland 3-0.
Canada outshot Finland 27-10 through 40 minutes, but couldn’t beat goaltender Noora Raty.
Meghan Agosta-Marciano finally gave Canada a 1-0 lead on its fourth power pay of the game when she drilled a slap shot to the top corner at 9:27 of the third period. That was followed by a goal by another veteran, Jayna Hefford, who deked two Finnish defenders and then fired a high shot from in tight.
Late in the third Rebecca Johnston scored her second goal of the 2014 Olympics, converting a three-on-one.
Finland has finished third or fourth at every Olympics and World Championship tournament since it began international play, so the Canadians knew they were in for a tough game.
“They just never give up,” said Canadian forward Brianne Jenner. “They are a hard-working team and they clog the middle of the ice. We knew that coming in so our game plan was to not be impatient and stick with what we wanted to do and it turned out that it worked in the third period.”
More aggressive in the 3rd
Canada knew it had to be more aggressive in the third period and there was a significant rise in the level of its play right from the drop of the puck. Jenner, however, said it was simply a matter of sticking to what they had been doing.
“To be honest, nothing was really said between periods,” Jenner said. “I think we just stuck with our game plan. We were generating a lot of shots so we just made small tweaks like trying to get in front of Raty’s eyes.”
Stopper Shannon shines
Shannon Szabados was in goal for Team Canada. Szabados, 27, was in goal for Canada in the gold medal game in Vancouver and is expected to be the team’s go-to goalie in Sochi. Charline Labonte started Game 1 against Switzerland. It was Szabados’s third straight shutout in Olympic action. She beat the United States 2-0 in the 2010 gold medal game after having beaten Sweden 5-0 in the semi-final.
Genevieve Lacasse served as backup against Finland.
Raty (pronounced Ra-too), who played goal for Finland, is a former University of Minnesota Gopher and a two-time NCAA champion. She stymied the Canadian shooters for most of the game and was particularly strong on her rebound control. She gave Canada very few second opportunities through the first 40 minutes. Canada outshot Finland 42-14.
Veteran Hayley Wickenheiser took a heavy spill early in the second period and was slow getting back to the bench. She appeared to be ailing on her next shift. Teammate Natalie Spooner was hit in a puck battle 15 minutes into the second and was also shaken up.
Canada’s Jennifer Wakefield got a rude introduction to the game. Midway through the first period, on her first shift, she was ridden hard into the boards and smashed her head on the stanchion at the Finland bench by Susanna Tapani who was penalized for body-checking.
Canada’s Melodie Daoust drove hard to the net late in the second and was swarmed by a group of Finns. All the players on the ice became involved with lots of pushing, shoving and a few punches being tossed. When the dust settled, Daoust and Finland’s Michelle Karvinen were assessed minor penalties.
Canadian coach Kevin Dineen was incensed when Daoust was given a double minor for slashing and roughing by referee Joy Tottman of Great Britain.
Stay out of the box
As if trying to beat Canada isn’t difficult enough, Finland made things more difficult by taking five penalties.
“Our weaknesses -- we would do better getting less penalties,” said defenceman Jenni Hiirikoski.
Canada came out flying in the third period and stormed the Finnish net. Marie-Philip Poulin beat Raty with a high shot to the short side, but hit the goal post.
With a goal and an assist Hefford was the first star of the game, while Szabados was the second star and Raty the third star.
The grudge match: Canada’s third game in the preliminary round will be played Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. ET (CBC, CBCSports.ca) against their bitter rivals, the United States. The Americans are 2-0, having defeated Finland 3-1 in their opening game and then crushing Switzerland 9-0 Monday. Amanda Kessel and Kendall Coyne scored two goals and added two assists each for the Team USA. Kessel is the younger sister of NHL star Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coyne led the Americans in shots on goal with eight. Team USA outshot the Swiss 53-10.