Analysis 'It's like our Stanley Cup': Canada and U.S. battle for women's hockey gold

2 hockey superpowers meet in final at 11 p.m. ET — 'a battle for the ages, as usual'

By Mike Brophy, CBC Sports

​Brianne Jenner knows exactly what to expect when Canada and the United States meet Wednesday night in a one-game showdown for the Olympic gold medal in women's hockey.

"A battle for the ages, as usual," Jenner said. "It's one of the best rivalries in hockey."

U.S. forward Meghan Duggan thinks it's even bigger than that.

"I am biased, but I think it is the greatest rivalry in sport when you look at the history of how many gold medal games the two teams have played in," Duggan told CBC. "It's exciting to be a part of it. I've been fortunate to play in a lot of great games against Canada in my career."

​Canada is trying to win its fifth-straight Olympic title. It certainly won't be easy.

While Canada defeated the U.S. 2-1 in the preliminary round, it could safely be argued the Americans were the better team in the contest, outshooting Canada 45-23.

Canada comes into the game holding the hotter hand having beaten the United States in each one of their last six meetings. Canada has also won 24 straight games in Olympic competition. That said, the United States is the International Ice Hockey Federation's  No. 1-ranked team, having captured the past four world championship titles as well as the past three Four Nations Cups.

Needless to say, the players know the importance of this single hockey game.

"It's like our Stanley Cup," Jenner said. "It's what we dream about since we were little girls. Once the puck drops, it's like you're on autopilot. You train for so many hours for this that your body knows what to do and it takes over."

Canada finished the preliminary round with a 3-0 record and advance to the gold-medal game with a 5-0 win against the Olympic Athletes from Russia in the semifinal. The U.S. was 2-1 in the preliminary round and beat Finland 5-0 in its semifinal game.

Teams will lean on offensive leaders

Canada has been led by the line of captain Marie-Philip Poulin, Melodie Daoust and Meghan Agosta, who have combined for seven goals and 15 points in four games. Daoust has three goals and three assists, Poulin two goals and three assists and Agosta two goals and two assists.

Rebecca Johnston has chipped in three goals and five points and Jennifer Wakefield had two goals in the semifinal victory over Russia.

Dani Cameranesi leads the United States in scoring with three goals and five points in four games. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson has three goals and four points and Kendell Coyne has two goals and three points.

This is the sixth Olympic women's hockey tournament and Canada and the United States have met for the gold medal five times. The exception was 2006 when Sweden won the silver medal and the United States settled for bronze.

"We're super excited to be in this position again," Lamoureux-Davidson said after beating Finland in the semifinal. "We've worked for four years to put ourselves in the position to compete for a gold medal and we'll enjoy this for a little bit, but we know that this isn't what we came here for."

The U.S. will try to erase the horrific memory of a 3-2 overtime loss to Canada in the gold medal game of the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The Americans led 2-0 with less than four minutes remaining in the third period. It has been reported one U.S. player skated past the Canadian bench and yelled, "You're going to lose; how does it feel?"

Jenner made it 2-1 at 16:34 and then Poulin tied the game at 19:05. Poulin, who scored the winning goal in the 2010 final in Vancouver, did it again scoring on the power play at 8:10 of overtime.

'That's a feeling that never goes away'

Lamoureaux-Davidson's sister, Monique Lamoureux-Morando said the loss stings to this day.

"The Olympics are every four years so we've had a lot of time to sit and think about that loss," Lamoureux-Morando said. "Most people don't understand that's a feeling that never goes away; it does not dull."

Nobody is surprised it comes down to Canada and the U.S. for the gold medal, least of all Team Canada coach Laura Schuler. She was a member of Canada's 1998 team that lost to the Americans in the gold-medal game of the first women's Olympic tournament.

"Everyone's plans are falling into place," Schuler said. "You have two great opponents at the end. It's awesome on the world's biggest stage for everybody to watch two powerhouses go at it."

Jenner thinks back to the 2014 gold medal nailbiter and wonders if it could happen again.

"I hope it doesn't go quite like that," Jenner said. "My mom will have a heart attack!"