April 04, 2016 - 7:42 AM
KAMLOOPS, B.C. - The United States and Canada extended their streak of clashing for gold at the women's world hockey championship.
The international women's hockey archrivals square off in Monday's final for the 17th time in as many tournaments.
Canada worked harder to get to this year's final and has less recovery time after a 5-3 semifinal win Sunday night over tenacious Finland. The Americans barely broke a sweat in a 9-0 romp over Russia in the afternoon semifinal.
"It certainly plays into our hands that we have an extra few hours to get treatment and cold tub, cool down and all that stuff and be fresh for tomorrow," U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said.
The U.S. is chasing a third straight world title after wins in Ottawa in 2013 and Malmo, Sweden, in 2015. Canada won the first eight world championship starting in 1990, but the Americans have dominated lately winning six of the last eight.
Women's championships aren't held in the same year as a Winter Olympics. The Canadians edged the U.S. 3-2 in overtime to defend their Olympic title 2014.
Their most recent gold medal at the world championship was in 2012, when they got by the host country 5-4 in overtime in Burlington, Vt.
"We know what U.S.A. is going to throw at us," Canadian forward Megan Agosta said. "We're willing to do whatever it takes and we're ready. It's our time."
Canadian head coach Laura Schuler sees a tough semifinal as a benefit heading into the gold-medal game.
"I would rather be battle-tested than not heading into tomorrow's game," Schuler said.
The U.S. went 3-0 in the preliminary round ahead of Canada at 2-1. The Canadians fell 3-1 to the defending champions to start the tournament despite a 36-save performance by Emerance Maschmeyer.
Toronto's Natalie Spooner led the host country with a hat trick and an assist Sunday in front of 4,007 at the Sandman Centre. Her short-handed breakaway goal early in the third stood up as the game winner.
She and Blayre Turnbull of Stellarton, N.S., both scored into an empty net. Agosta of Ruthven, Ont., scored her first of the tournament. Charline Labonte of Boisbriand, Que., stopped 16 shots for her second win.
Saana Valkama, Michelle Karvinen and Saila Saari countered for Finland. Meeri Raisanen stopped 34-of-37 shots for the Finns, who face an even quicker turnaround for Monday afternoon's bronze-medal game against Russia.
Finland lost 6-1 to Canada to conclude the preliminary round, but were a determined team playing for an upset Sunday.
Down 3-1, coach Pasi Mustonen started pulling Raisanen for an extra attacker at 11:22 of the third period when Canada was even strength, and then on two subsequent power plays later in the period.
The strategy worked on their first man-advantage with Karvinen's goal, but backfired on the second try with Turnbull and Spooner both scoring into an empty net. Saari struck even strength with 33 seconds remaining in the game.
"I don't see it as a gamble," Mustonen said. "To win something great, you have to have the courage to put in everything, all in. We were close to succeeding."
Unlike Russia, which started its backup goalie against the U.S., Finland went with Raisanen, who made Canada work for the win. She stoned Agosta and Jennifer Wakefield on breakaways in the second period.
Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Kelli Stack and Hilary Knight led the Americans with two goals apiece Sunday. Duggan, Megan Bozek and Brianna Decker also scored. Alex Rigsby posted a 17-save shutout against Russia.
"Any time you can get a big win in the semifinals, it gives you a lot of energy and fire going into the final," Duggan said.
"I thought we moved the puck well, but all the lines were going on all cylinders, finding seams and making plays. It gives us confidence going into tomorrow's game."
Russian starter Anna Prugova was pulled after allowing four goals on 14 shots in the first period for Nadezhda Morozova, who turned away 21-of-26 shots.
Sweden doubled the Czech Republic 4-2 in the fifth-place game. Switzerland downed Japan 4-0 to take the best-of-three relegation series 2-0.
The Swiss will play in next year's world championship in Plymouth, Mich., while Japan was relegated to the 'B' championship. Germany earned promotion to Plymouth.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016