Hockey

Mike Brophy - Monday Feb. 17, 2014 14:20 ET

Team Canada advances to gold medal game in women's hockey

Canada beats Switzerland 3-1 to advance to final against U.S.

Natalie Spooner and Florence Schelling in women's hockey
Natalie Spooner fights for the puck against Florence Schelling of Switzerland during the women's hockey semifinal game on Day 10 in Sochi (Martin Rose/Getty Images).
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Canada defeated Switzerland 3-1 in the women's hockey semifinal game Monday in Sochi.

The hard-fought win sends Team Canada to the gold medal match against the United States on Thursday, and a shot at a fourth straight Olympic gold medal.

This is a game Canada should have won by more than just two goals. It would have, too, if not for the spectacular play of Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling. She made 45 saves, many of the spectacular variety, as Canada held a distinct territorial advantage over the Swiss.

Schelling spent most of the game with a big smile on her face, and who can blame her? Her team had little chance of winning, but made things tense for the Canadians with her amazing ability between the pipes.

“I thought we had a really good start to the game,” said Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados. “The key, obviously, was scoring three goals in the first period. They gave us a good game. It is what we expected.”

No surprises in gold medal matchup

So it is Canada and the United States going head-to-head for the gold medal in women’s hockey.

Geez, who saw that coming?

Everybody in the hockey world, that’s who. While the other hockey-playing nations are improving, there is still a huge gap between Canada and the United States and the rest of the teams.

The United States made it through to the gold medal game with a convincing 6-1 victory over Sweden, a game in which the Americans outshot their opponents 70-9.

Canada and the United States tangled in the preliminary round, with the Canadians holding on for a 3-2 victory.

It marks the fourth time in five Olympic Games that Canada and the United States have met in the gold medal game. The only year the two hockey superpowers didn’t face off for the gold was in 2006 in Turin, Italy, when Canada defeated Sweden to win the championship. The United States won the first-ever Olympic hockey gold medal in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, but Canada has won the subsequent three tournaments.

Little mistakes could be costly: You can make mistakes at the Olympics and not have it cost you against a weak team like Switzerland. Make similar mistakes against the United States and they could be fatal.

Canada was caught with too many players on the ice in the first period, but the Swiss failed to cash in on the power play. In the second period, with her team playing shorthanded, Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados wandered from her net, got the puck and fired it right to a Swiss player who was unable to deposit it in the empty net. Canada also went offside time and time again.

Spinner Spooner: Natalie Spooner opened the scoring for Canada at 7:29 of the first period when she circled the net and fired a high wrist shot from the top of the slot that eluded Swiss stopper Florence Schelling. Spooner added her second of the game (and second of the Olympics) a few minutes later when she tipped a Catherine Ward slap shot from the point home with two Swiss players in the penalty box. Spooner had a chance for a hat trick, but missed on a breakaway with three minutes remaining in the game. She hit the post.

Bang bang … game over: Twenty-three seconds after Spooner’s second goal, Melodie Daoust stuck for Canada to make it 3-0.

Irwin debuts: Centre Hayley Irwin dressed for the first time in this Olympics. The 25-year-old Thunder Bay native missed the first three games with an upper-body injury she suffered during an exhibition game in Austria prior to the start of the Games. Irwin helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver by scoring four goals and five points in five games. Irwin played 21 shifts and had 14:08 ice time.

Zebra zapped: American referee Erin Blair was shaken up late in the first period after colliding with Canadian forward Rebecca Johnston at the Team Canada bench. She had two fingers taped together by Canada’s team doctor and stayed in the game.

Benz bashed: Switzerland’s Laura Benz was crushed with a thundering hit by Canada’s Gillian Apps in the second period. There was contact to the head. Apps received a minor penalty for body checking, but TV analyst Cassie Campbell-Pascal noted, “Gillian Apps is lucky this is not more of a major penalty.”

All you need is glove: Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados and Swiss stopper Schelling made spectacular back-to-back glove saves in the second period. Szabados robbed Swiss forward Alina Muller from in front with quick flash of her glove with Team Canada playing shorthanded and Schelling did likewise to Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin not long after.

Crease crasher: Canada’s Meghan Agosta-Marciano drove hard to the net and crashed into Schelling forcing the Swiss goalie and the puck into the net at 7:30 of the third. The goal was waved off.

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