Sarah Fillier scored just 64 seconds into her Olympic debut, but she waited a lot longer than that to know her goal was Canada’s first of the Olympic women’s hockey tournament in Beijing.
Officials spent almost five minutes analyzing video of Fillier batting the puck out of the air and between the Swiss goaltender’s legs before validating a goal that got Canada off to the races in Thursday’s 12-1 victory.
“That’s quite the way to make an entrance into the Olympics,” Canadian forward Natalie Spooner said. “I guess then we got to celebrate twice, because we celebrated when she first scored, and then once they finally called it a goal again.”
The youngest player on the Canadian team at 21, Fillier of Georgetown, Ont., produced Canada’s first two goals and assisted on the third, scored by Spooner in the first period.
“In the beginning, it was just about battling the nerves,” Fillier said. “I was super excited. I didn’t want to have my emotions too high.
“It’s the Olympics. It’s exciting to be here.”
Canada’s veterans then filled the scoresheet with Blayre Turnbull and three-time Olympian Spooner both scoring twice and assisting on two goals.
Defender Claire Thompson posted a five-point day with a goal and four assists. Laura Stacey scored twice, with Rebecca Johnston, Ashton Bell and Erin Ambrose contributing singles for Canada.
“I think we’re pretty pleased with how we executed our o-zone play tonight,” Turnbull said.
Goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens made 14 saves in the victory. Her shutout bid ended with Swiss captain Lara Stalder’s power-play goal in the third period after Canada had scored nine unanswered goals.
Despite 70 shots against, Swiss goalie Andrea Braendli stayed in the game when given the option to come out in the second period, said coach Colin Mueller.
Canada’s Pool A in Beijing includes defending champion United States, Finland, Russia and the Swiss.
Canada faces the Finns on Saturday, the Russians on Tuesday and the Americans on Feb. 8.
Japan, Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark and host China comprise Pool B.
The quarter-final matchups Feb. 11-12 will be: A1-B3, A2-B2, A3-B1, A4-A5. The semi-finals are Feb. 14 followed by the bronze-medal game Feb. 16 and the final Feb. 17.
Canada is the reigning world champion having beaten the U.S. in overtime for the title in August in Calgary.
The Swiss, whose best Olympic result was bronze in 2014, lost in the bronze-medal game to the Finns there.
Canadian women won four straight Olympic hockey gold before the Americans edged them 3-2 in a shootout in the 2018 final in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Beijing’s organizing committee didn’t sell tickets to the general public for the Winter Games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but invites groups of Chinese spectators to events.
So 1,000 spectators were meticulously spaced apart in the National Indoor Stadium, which was the gymnastics venue for Beijing’s 2008 Summer Games. They’re encouraged to clap only, and not cheer.
The pandemic shortened a pre-Olympic Rivalry Series with the United States from nine games to six, so Canada played its first game since Dec. 17 in St. Louis.
Canada led 3-0 and 8-0 at period breaks and hemmed the Swiss in their own zone for the majority of the game. Switzerland’s first shot on net came five and a half minutes into the game during a power play.
“Their puck pressure is incredible and we’re not used to it,” Mueller said. “We gave them a two-spot early and that hurt. That hurt our confidence and gave them confidence.”
Fillier was a continuous scoring threat with her speed and creative hands. She wheeled through the offensive zone and whipped a wrist shot just inside Braendli’s right post at 7:55 of the opening period.
“The puck is almost on a string on her stick,” Spooner said. “We haven’t played a game in two months, so to come out and to have Filly score very first shift, I think that kind of set the tone.”
Mueller’s high-stick challenge on Fillier’s opener was waved off after the officials’ lengthy review, which Turnbull compared to “having a little bit of an intermission right off the hop.”
Spooner’s tenacious net-front presence produced a pair of backhand goals.
Canadian forward Melodie Daoust left the ice in pain in the second period. She was checked hard into the boards by defender Sarah Forster and didn’t return to the game.
Hockey Canada said in a postgame statement the medical support staff was assessing Daoust, and there wasn’t an update on her status for Saturday’s game.
Canada’s Emily Clark lost an edge and crashed into Braendli midway through the first period. The Swiss goalie was slow to get up.
No penalty was called, and the Swiss made their displeasure known on the subsequent faceoff shoving some gloves in Canadian faces.
Women’s hockey made its Olympic debut in 1998 with a six-team tournament. The field increased to eight countries four years later in Salt Lake City and has expanded to 10 in Beijing.
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