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Canadian defenceman Rebecca Johnston (#6) and Finland forward Linda Valimaki (#13) scramble for the puck during first period of Four Nations women's hockey action in St. John's on Friday Nov. 12, 2010. (Paul Daly)
Canadian defenceman Rebecca Johnston (#6) and Finland forward Linda Valimaki (#13) scramble for the puck during first period of Four Nations women's hockey action in St. John's on Friday Nov. 12, 2010. (Paul Daly)

Canada advances to women's world hockey gold medal game Add to ...

Canada needs just one more win to reclaim the women's world hockey crown.

The Canadians wore down Finland 4-1 in Saturday's semifinal to book their ticket into the gold-medal game Monday (TSN, 2 p.m. ET). Canada will face the winner of the later semifinal between the U.S. and Russia.

Canada may be the reigning Olympic champion but the U.S. has won the last two world titles.

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The Canadians faced down a frustrating Finnish defence, led by goaltender Noora Raty, with two third-period goals to break the semifinal open.

The official scorers put Canada's margin of shots at 78-16. Even if that number was generous, Raty was a whirling dervish against the Canadians for the second time this tournament.

The Canadians felt the game was good preparation for Monday's final as nothing was certain early and they had to work hard for the win. The Finns tied the game in the first and trailed by one goal after two.

"We're in a situation where we're up 1-0, they score a goal and how do we bounce back from that?" asked assistant captain Jayna Hefford. "How do we start a third period when we're up only 2-1?

"There are moments like that which are key for us. Those are the situations that make us a better team and going to be an asset for us going into a gold-medal game."

Raty, who plays NCAA hockey for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, made 49 saves in Canada's 2-0 win over the Finns on Tuesday, when Hefford sealed the victory with an empty-net goal.

Based on that game, the Canadians knew they'd have to throw all their firepower at Raty in the semifinal and did so.

Hefford, from Kingston, Ont., Rebecca Johnston of Sudbury, Ont., Marie-Philip Poulin of Beauceville, Que., and Hayley Wickenheiser of Shaunavon, Sask., scored at Zurich Hallenstadion. Wickenheiser's goal, Canada's fourth, came shorthanded.

"Our game plan was to put pucks on net from everywhere and maybe you'll get lucky like I did from a bad angle, or there's going to be a rebound and we jump on them," said Hefford, whose sharp-angled shot in the third made it 3-1.

Goaltender Charline Labonte of Boisbriand, Que., stopped 15 shots for the win. Michelle Karvinen ended Canada's shutout streak at the world championships at 11:43 of the first.

Raty and the Finns were playing their second game in as many days after a 5-1 win over the Swedes in the quarter-final. The goalie made 38 saves in that contest.

Canada, meanwhile, had three days without a game after finishing the preliminary round Tuesday and earning the bye to the semifinal with a 3-0 record.

The Finns were more audacious on offence in the first, mustering 10 shots on Labonte. But their fuel tanks started to drain and they were outshot 32-2 in the second.

"Our feet didn't move at all in the last two periods," Raty said. "That was the difference. They got days off and we didn't.

"They shot from everywhere. Definitely, I was dead in the end."

The Canadians knew it was a matter of outlasting their opponent and just kept coming at Finland in waves. Poulin's goal in the final minute of the first was important.

Finland's strategy was to lift the Canadians' sticks or tie the players up as they tried for rebounds and second scoring chances. Poulin made it 2-1 by backhanding a rebound over Raty. Along with Hefford and Poulin, Johnston was a standout for Canada as the puck seemed to follow her around the ice.

The Finns also forechecked harder than they did Tuesday, trying to exploit the inexperience of Canada's three new defenceman - Bobbi Jo Slusar, Tara Watchorn and Jocelyne Larocque.

Canada struggled at times to work the puck out of its own end early in the game, which head coach Ryan Walter believes was a good lesson for the final.

"We need to make a couple of adjustments, but overall we were happy with our young defence," Walter said. "Normally young players aren't patient and today we had to be."

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