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four nations hockey

Canadian defenseman 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. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul DalyPaul Daly/The Canadian Press

The Canadian women's hockey team knows it has to bury its chances in order to win the Four Nations Cup.

They did just that Friday.

Marie-Philip Poulin of Beauceville, Que., had a hat trick and added an assist as the Canadians routed Finland 15-0.

Canada will meet the U.S. in Saturday's championship (TSN2, 6 p.m. ET). Despite being outshot 34-25, the U.S. beat Canada 3-2 in a shootout Tuesday in the first game of the tournament for both teams.

The youngest player on the team at 19, Poulin scored both goals in Canada's 2-0 win over the U.S. in February's Olympic gold-medal game.

"For sure we wanted to prepare ourselves for tomorrow's game and go hard at Finland, finish our shots and get rebounds," Poulin said.

A common criticism of women's international hockey is that the game is simply two-horse race between Canada and the U.S.

Canadian assistant captain Caroline Ouellette said she felt despondent on the bench Friday as the score got out of hand, knowing the result would only add to the criticism. It was Canada's most lopsided win over Finland in the two countries' 49 games.

"We had to think about tomorrow," Ouellette said. "It's about keeping the good habits. Against the U.S., we're not going to get away with bad habits, we're not going to get away with not backchecking, we're not going to get away with not shooting from the slot.

"You have to stay disciplined and keep going 100 per cent."

Haley Irwin and Jennifer Wakefield each added a pair of goals for Canada, while Ouellette, Meghan Agosta, Meaghan Mikkelson, Jayna Hefford, Hayley Wickenheiser, Cherie Piper, Vicki Bendus and Natalie Spooner also scored. Ouellette had a five-point night with four assists.

Shannon Szabados, who was in net Tuesday for the loss to the U.S., got little work from the Finns in stopping all 12 shots she faced. Canadian head coach Ryan Walter wasn't ready to say Friday whether it would be Szabados or Kim St. Pierre in net for Saturday's final.

Earlier Friday, the U.S. concluded its preliminary round with a 4-0 shutout of Sweden. Hilary Knight, Kacey Bellamy, Monique Lamoureaux-Kolls and Erika Lawler scored for the Americans. Jessie Vetter made 20 saves for the shutout.

Canada beat the U.S. 5-2 in the final of last year's Four Nations Cup in Vierumaki, Finland.

Vetter was outstanding Tuesday against Canada with 32 saves. U.S. head coach Katey Stone said Friday she had not decided between Vetter or Molly Schaus for the final.

"I anticipate the game will be very different tomorrow night," Stone said. "They have time, we've had time to gel a little bit.

"I thought Canada outplayed us (Tuesday). It was a flukey game. The goals were not nice goals, not clean at all, but it was great to see our young kids play with confidence. They handled the pressure very well and they've gained confidence during the week. That's very encouraging for us."

Finland (1-2) and Sweden (0-3) will meet in the bronze-medal game Saturday.

Canadian defender Bobbi Jo Slusar appeared to injure herself after a collision midway through Friday's third period. She skated off the ice under own steam, but was bent over in pain and is questionable for Saturday's final. If Slusar is unable to play, Annie Guay would draw into the lineup.

"We don't know her status yet," Walter said of Slusar. "It doesn't look good right now. We'll get a report from the doctor tonight."

Finland gave Anna Vanhatalo her first start of the tournament and it wasn't pretty. She stopped 25-of-34 shots over two periods before she was relieved by veteran Noora Raty, who surrendered six goals on 22 shots.

"Nobody likes those games. I said to the Finnish coach 'We're not happy about that,"' Walter said, who added that Pekka Hamalainen apologized to him for his team's performance.

"I said to him 'Our goal was to prepare for tomorrow.' We didn't want to take our foot off the gas pedal. If this is minor hockey, for sure I'm doing that. It's not minor hockey and you know what? It would embarrassing to the Finns for us to do that."

Finland, the Olympic and world bronze medallists, lost 5-0 to Canada in the semifinal of the Winter Games on Feb. 22. At last year's Four Nations in Vierumaki, it was 4-2 Canada.

The Finns throw all their efforts into defence when they play Canada and hope to score on a turnover. They followed their strategy of clogging up the neutral zone, but are usually much better protecting their net.

"It was the first time I saw the Finnish team quit the way they did," Ouellette said.

Every Canadian forward earned at least a point Friday. Bendus, playing in her first tournament for the national team, and Wakefield lead the tournament in points with seven each. The pair play on a line with Spooner, who scored her fourth goal of the tournament.

"You get people feeling good about their game going into tomorrow," Walter said. "I tried to play the Bendus line a lot in the third. They've got lots of ice time, which is great. We played really well tonight. We have to have that same game tomorrow for sure."

Irwin, Agosta and Rebecca Johnston have also solidified as a line. Unlike the Olympics, for which the Canadian team six months together preparing, the players have had to form chemistry and learn systems on the fly in this tournament.

"We're coming together more and we're on the same page," Irwin said. "I think we've set ourselves up here where we've created good habits and we can build on something and go into tomorrow ready to rock and roll."

Notes: Wickenheiser's goal was her career 149th. ... Defender Annie Guay and forward Brianne Jenner were Canada's scratches Friday. ... Canada has never lost to Finland in 49 meetings, but tied 6-6 on Jan. 20, 1999.