In news equal to the recent scientific revelation that ice is actually frozen water, Canada and the United States will meet Tuesday in the gold-medal game of the Women’s World Hockey Championship.
It was, of course, never in doubt.
Canada defeated Russia 8-1 Monday night in front of 7,255 fans at Scotiabank Place in a game noteworthy for the fact that the winning goaltender outscored most of her opponents.
Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados picked up an assist on the opening goal when, 19:14 into the opening period, she sent a puck up ice to Meaghan Mikkelson, who gave it to Haley Irwin for a shot that bounced before skipping over the outstretched stick of Russian goaltender Anna Prugova.
Prugova had been brilliant up to that point, stopping 19 of the 20 shots she faced as play was almost totally in the Russian end. The Canadians, while controlling play, seemed unable to convince the puck to cross the Russian goal line.
The dam broke early in the second period, however. Moments after Russia’s captain, and best player, Yekaterina Smolenstseva put a hard shot off Szabados’s right post, the Canadians scored again when Natalie Spooner was able to squeeze a shot in the short side.
Canada went up 3-0 when Marie-Philip Poulin backhanded a rebound past Prugova and 4-0 on a long blast from just inside the Russian blueline by Jennifer Wakefield, the star of Canada’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Americans in Team Canada’s opening match of the tournament.
The Russians finally scored just past the game’s halfway point when defender Svetlana Tkachyova took a shot through a screen that eluded Szabados.
Soon, however, goals by Jayna Hefford and Poulin, with her seventh of the tournament, had Canada far out in front. Third-period goals by Meghan Agosta-Marciano and Rebecca Johnston – on replacement goaltender Yulia Leskina – were unnecessary.
Canada outshot Russia 49-18.
Earlier Monday, the United States defeated Finland 3-0 to advance to the gold-medal match. The highlight of the game was not the shutout but the play of Finnish goaltender Noora Raty, who kept the score respectable compared to the 8-0 drubbing Canada had delivered the Finns in the opening round.
Finland and Russia will play for the bronze medal earlier in the day.
As has been the case in every Olympic and world competition, the disparity in competition had become a major issue by the time the medal round began.
Team Sweden, which had showed promise at the Turin Games in 2006, when it beat the Americans in the Swedish Miracle on Ice to meet Canada in the gold, showed very poorly in this tournament.
The host team had skated with its own controversy since it opened the tournament wearing the black-and-yellow colours of a worthy charity founded by an unworthy, Lance Armstrong, whose name will forever be a euphemism for cheating in sports.
After the Canadians defeated the Swiss 13-0 in a humiliating sacking, they erroneously tried to defend the overkill by claiming Switzerland had not started its best goaltender – forgetting, it seemed, that the Canadians had blasted an astonishing 79 shots at the two unfortunates who played that night.
There are many unwritten rules to the game at all levels, and they range from you never, ever give a butt end to you should never, ever run up the score.
There is also much good to be said about the 2013 women’s world championship. First and foremost would be the impressive number of young players in the stands – young women who might one day wear the red and white (not the black and yellow of Livestrong) of the national team or, for that matter, the colours of other hockey nations.
Second would be the strides taken by Russia, an embarrassing also-ran in previous world championships. The Russians did not fare well against the Canadians, but they did win other games and impressed with how much they had developed in a year.
The competition issue was highlighted in Vancouver in 2010, when IOC president Jacques Rogge said women’s hockey would need to become more competitive if it hoped to maintain its position in the Winter Games.
“It was a little shot from Jacques to us,” International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said Monday.
The IIHF’s reaction was to put two million Swiss francs (about $2.2-million Canadian) into women’s hockey development. A mentor program, mostly featuring Canadian coaches and players, has been in place for a year.
Asked if there was a genuine concern that women’s hockey could be killed, Fasel shrugged and said, “You never know – they kicked wrestling out.”
But, he added, in his opinion, “There is no danger.”
Fasel pointed out that in the 1928 Winter Games that the Canadian men whipped Switzerland by that same 13-0 score that the Canadian women beat Switzerland this week.
It took 78 years, but in Turin in 2006, the Swiss men beat the Canadian 2-0.
The question, of course, is will the women be shown such patience?