April 01, 2016 - 7:45 AM
KAMLOOPS - A dominant performance by Jennifer Wakefield and her linemates propelled Canada into the semifinals of the women's world hockey championship.
Wakefield scored twice and assisted on two goals in Canada's 6-1 win over Finland to conclude the preliminary round Thursday in Kamloops, B.C.
The host country finished 2-1 and ranked second behind the U.S. at 3-0 in Pool A. The Canadians and the Americans have Friday off while four other countries play quarter-finals.
Canada faces the winner between Finland and the Czech Republic, while defending champion U.S. meets the victor of the Russia-Sweden quarter-final. Sunday's semifinal winners advance to Monday's championship game.
The trio of Wakefield, Rebecca Johnston and Brianne Jenner combined for four of the host country's six goals against the Finns.
Finland couldn't contain the five-foot-10, 172-pound Wakefield from Pickering, Ont., as she led Canada in shots on goal with nine.
"My god, that girl can shoot the puck," Canadian head coach Laura Schuler said. "She's a natural goalscorer and she's such a powerful forward, that train on the tracks. You can't knock her off the track.
"It's good chemistry between the three of them. Jenner is a player that makes things happen. She's that two-way, 200-foot player for us. Johnny has such poise and control with the puck and Jenn's that finisher so the three of them, they combine well."
Johnston collected a goal and two assists and Jenner a goal on the night.
"They're two really fast players and big bodies so it's been a super-easy transition to use each other," Wakefield said of her linemates. "Jenner and I played together at last year's world championship and we seem to have taken a step forward from last year."
Captain Marie-Philip Poulin and Jill Saulnier also scored, while Emerance Maschmeyer earned the win with 18 saves.
Petra Nieminen replied for the Finns. Meeri Raisanen took the loss allowing five goals on 32 shots for last year's bronze medallists. She was replaced after two periods by Anni Keisala, who stopped eight of nine shots.
"We gave them the red line and that gave them the chance to get it deep and that's not what we want," Finnish forward Michelle Karvinen said. "We have a game tomorrow, so we'll try not to think too much about it. Just learn from it and not make the same mistakes tomorrow."
Canada had a scare in the second period when alternate captain Meghan Agosta hobbled off of the ice, but the forward returned and played the third period.
Raisanen had a heroic 49 saves in a 2-1 loss to the U.S. earlier in the round-robin, but Canada solved her early with Poulin scoring 64 seconds after puck drop in front of 4,234 fans at the Sandman Centre.
Johnston and Nieminen traded power-play goals before Jenner, Saulnier and Wakefield rattled off three unanswered goals in the second period.
Wakefield scored a power-play goal in the third for her second of the game. The 26-year-old has spent the last two seasons playing in Sweden and this past winter with HC Linkoping's women's team.
"I think it's helped a lot," Wakefield said. "I'm playing with really great players over there and three players on the Swedish national team.
"I really credit learning from other nations. You kind of take from their game and add to your own game and make it one good game."
The Americans downed Russia 8-0 to go undefeated in the round robin. Sweden topped Pool B with three wins, including Thursday's 2-1 overtime win over Switzerland.
The Czechs, who edged Japan 3-2 in a shootout Thursday, were the surprise of Pool B with two wins and a loss.
The Czechs earned promotion from the 'B' world championship last year and opened with a 3-1 upset win over Olympic bronze medallist Switzerland.
The Swiss (1-2) and Japan (0-3) will play a best-of-three relegation round with the loser dropping to the 'B' championship in 2017.
Canadian team alumni from the 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004 world champion teams were honoured after the first period. Danielle Goyette, Sami Jo Small, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Geraldine Heaney and Therese Brisson were among those recognized.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016