USA and Canada prepare for epic battle for hockey gold
The games had to be played, but every true hockey fan knew before the 2022 Winter Olympics even started that it would come to that.
Canada. United States. For women’s hockey gold.
There is no love lost between these two hockey powerhouses. The Americans and Canadians have faced each other for gold in five of the six Olympic Games in which women’s hockey was included as an event. They know each other as well as two opponents, and nothing motivates each team more than the idea of fighting. Especially when there is a title at stake.
And if you ask those on the front lines, there’s no comparison. This rivalry is unlike any in recent memory.
“It’s wonderful hockey, it’s the greatest rivalry in sport,” said the American striker Hilary Chevalier. “It brings out the best and the worst of both of us at the same time. It’s a wonderful game.
The Canadians have a 3-2 advantage over the Americans in their five Olympic gold medal encounters to date, but when it comes to the Women’s World Championship, the Americans reign supreme, having won gold in eight of their last 11 encounters with Canada in the title game.
Of course, the United States currently holds the PyeongChang Olympic crown. Who can forget the electrifying American shootout victory and the rise of the magnificent “Oops, I did it again” movement?
Certainly not Canada. That loss has haunted the Canadians since 2018, and they’re hungry for gold at this year’s Games at all costs.
SEE MORE: PyeongChang 2018: USA Women beat Canada to gold in shootout
“Everyone is excited and prepared. We’ve worked all year for this, we’ve worked so hard, so we’re going to be ready to go into this last game and really give it our all,” said the Canadian striker. Rebecca Johnson.
“That gold medal is definitely on our minds.”
As it should be. The Canadians have been unstoppable throughout this year’s tournament, outscoring their opponents 54-8 en route to a perfect 6-0 record going into the title game.
The Americans also impressed. While the United States managed ‘only’ 28 goals in their six Olympic competitions – barely more than half of Canada’s goal production in the same number of games – the American defense was simply stellar. They limited their opponents to just eight goals in 360 minutes of play and dominated the possession game, beating their opponents 334-95 which is quite confusing.
The United States has lost just one game since the start of this year’s tournament and, of course, that’s at the hands of Canada. But even though the Americans couldn’t beat Canada in group play, they still played well against their neighbors north of the border. They outscored the Canadians 53-27 in preliminary shots, but only managed to score on one of their six power-play chances, and it cost them dearly.
Still, the Americans know that if they play a match similar to the one they played against Canada in the preliminaries, they will have a very high probability of successfully defending their title against PyeongChang.
“We just have to keep going. It happens sometimes. Over the course of seven games, every chance won’t be taken or you’ll hit a little rut,” said the American striker. Amanda Kessel after the loss to Canada. “I think if we keep doing what we’re doing, the floodgates will open.”
While the Americans’ return to the gold medal game was expected, they faced stiff competition in the round of 16. The Czechs scared American hockey fans in the quarterfinals when they briefly took the lead in the middle of the game, but the Americans quickly reacted and took the big 4-1 victory.
Finland then gave USA fits in the semi-finals. A high-risk scoring chance late in the opening period of the match almost gave the Finns the lead, but a pair of clutch pads saves from Alex Cavallini kept the game scoreless and tipped the momentum in favor of his side.
While USA’s two playoff games may have raised the heart rate, they likely also helped prepare the team for their biggest challenge yet. Now the Americans will hope they have recovered enough steam from their audacious victories over the Czechs and Finns to lead them to a gold medal once again.
“I know how important a gold medal is for our program, I know how important it is for the grassroots level,” Knight said. “I know there are young girls, young boys, adults watching. What this team is doing for our country is incredible.
The puck drop in the gold medal game between the United States and Canada is scheduled for Wednesday night at 11:10 p.m. ET. The game can be streamed on NBCOlympics.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock, and it will be nationally televised in the United States with a replay Thursday night at 5 p.m. ET.