November 08, 2014 - 4:29 PM
KAMLOOPS - Natalie Spooner thinks about it a lot, the game crosses Brianne Jenner's mind every so often, and Haley Irwin wants to move on.
Canada's dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory against the United States in the women's gold-medal hockey game at the Sochi Olympics added another memorable moment to the rivalry between the two countries.
The stage is a smaller, but another chapter will be written on Saturday night.
Irwin, Jennifer Wakefield and Rebecca Johnston scored for Canada on Friday in a 3-1 victory over Finland at the Four Nations Cup tournament that ensured a rematch against the U.S. in the championship game.
"It's easy to get excited for those games," said Spooner. "Those are the games we want to be in and want to play in, so I think we're all looking forward to it. They're always close games so we've got to bring our best game of the tournament."
Canada had all but mathematically clinched a spot in the final after beating the Americans in round-robin play on Thursday. Finland needed an unlikely blowout victory over Canada to advance after the U.S. guaranteed its own spot in the showcase with a 3-0 win over Sweden earlier Friday.
"It's going to be an awesome game," said Irwin. "I think you're going to see again both teams giving it their best effort. The rivalry is there and it's for a gold medal."
Anything other than a showdown between Canada (3-0) and the U.S. (2-1) at the tournament was never really in doubt as the giants of the women's game again dominated their European opponents.
"It's always an exciting game — should be a great one," said Canadian head coach Doug Derraugh. "You don't have to give them the rah-rah motivational speech for this one."
The rosters for the North American teams in Kamloops are missing a lot of the big names from that memorable game nine months ago in Russia as the U.S. and Canada continue to evaluate younger talent with an eye towards next year's world championship and the 2018 Olympics. Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford are among the 10 veterans not taking part for Canada, while the Americans left 11 of their Olympians off the roster.
That doesn't in any way lessen the importance of Saturday.
"It's huge. Every time we have an opportunity to play against the U.S. it's a big deal," said Jenner, who scored the first goal in the Sochi comeback. "We've got a lot of young players here that are just getting their first taste of this rivalry."
For their part, the Americans are looking forward to getting another crack at Canada, especially in what will surely be a hostile environment at the Interior Savings Centre.
"Any time you get a chance to have a U.S.-Canada game it's fun," said head coach Ken Klee. "It was great for me as a player, it's great now as a coach. It will be good atmosphere.
"It's a hockey game and when there's energy in the building I don't care if you're the visiting team or the home team, you feel the energy and it's exciting. Those are the games you want to be playing in."
Canada also left it late against the U.S. during round-robin play at the Four Nations, scoring twice in the final five minutes as part of a 3-2 victory that again sent the Americans home unhappy.
"That's our goal — to play a full, solid 60 minutes of hockey," said U.S. forward Hilary Knight. "We didn't play that the other night and we're looking forward to the opportunity of playing it again.'
In Friday's late game that wrapped up round-robin play, Emerance Maschmeyer made 11 saves to get the win for Canada.
Wakefield opened the scoring with 5:14 left in the first period, capping off a nice passing play with Tara Watchorn and Jenner.
Finnish goalie Meeri Raisanen, who finished with 46 saves, held her team in during a first period that saw Canada record the first 11 shots before Finland directed one at Maschmeyer.
Laura Fortino hit the post on a 3-on-1 short-handed break for Canada early in the second period before Jillian Saulnier had another good chance off the rush with nine minutes gone.
Jenner and Irwin then had back-to-back shots from in close, and Spooner tried her luck on a breakaway, but Raisanen was equal to the task on all three occasions.
"You have to hand it to Finland, they're a tough team to play against," said Irwin. "Even though we generated a bunch of shots I thought there were areas we can definitely be better in."
Maschmeyer didn't even face a shot in the period until there were under three minutes to go, but she had to be careful on a scramble in front as Canada held a 34-9 shot advantage though two periods.
Irwin, Canada's captain, finally doubled her team's lead at 3:53 of the third on a nice deflection off a Fortino shot past a helpless Raisanen.
Riika Valilila scored Finland's second goal of the tournament, swatting a puck home from the slot on a power play at 10:36 to give her team hope, but Johnston iced things into an empty net to seal it with under a minute to go.
"It wasn't our best total 60 minutes of hockey, but I thought there were some good things," said Jenner. "It's a short tournament and we've got to learn from every shift."
In Friday's other game, Knight, Emily Pflazer and Brianna Decker scored in the American victory over the Swedes.
Brianne McLaughlin-Bittle stopped all 11 shots she faced for the U.S., while Shiann Darkangelo picked up two assists. Sara Grahn made 47 saves for Sweden (0-3), which has yet to score a goal in Kamloops and will play in the third-place game against Finland (1-2).
"Their goalie played a really great game," said Knight. "She made a lot of really great saves, but it wasn't frustrating for us at all. We're a relentless team."
Knight gave her team a 1-0 lead at 5:12 of the first before Pfalzer scored on a 5-on-3 power play at 14:25 of the second. Decker then put things completely out of reach with a nice short-handed effort with 31.7 seconds remaining in the period.
"We had a lot of energy," said Klee. "Great chances, moving the puck, moving our feet — those are the things we have to pride ourselves in.
"It was a fun game."
Notes: Canadian forward Jamie Lee Rattray, who has a goal and two assists in two games, sat out against Finland. Derraugh would not give a reason why, adding that she would be a game-time decision for Saturday. ... Canada and the U.S. have played in all but two Four Nations Cup finals. The Americans were upset by Finland during the round-robin portion of the tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y., last year and settled for a disappointing third. ... Canada has won the tournament 13 times, while the U.S. owns the five other titles.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014