Women’s hockey has been dominated by Canada in the last three Olympic Games. The defending champs are one step away from making it four in a row, but Team USA stands in their way.
The U.S. and Canada will face off in the gold medal round at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 20, at 12 pm Eastern time. It’s only fitting that the final game will come down to these two squads, considering they are by far and away the best teams in the field. Canada has gone undefeated, and the U.S. has outscored their opponents, 20-5.
The Americans’ only loss came to Canada in the preliminary round. The Canadians took the contest 3-2, though the victory did not come without controversy. Canada scored all of their goals in the third period, including one by Meghan Agosta-Marciano less than four minutes in. The goal was upheld after review, even though the play had been blown dead before the puck crossed the line and went into the net. The referee blew the whistle when USA goalie Jessie Vetter tried to cover the puck after a save.
Agosta-Marciano was the catalyst for Canada against the U.S., scoring two goals and adding one assist. On their way to the finals, Natalie Spooner scored twice, helping the Canadians move past Switzerland. Spooner may be hitting her stride after failing to score in the preliminary round.
Against Sweden, the USA had an easy time advancing to face Canada. Megan Bozek, Kendall Coyne and Brianna Decker were the stars, contributing three points each. They won’t have an easy time scoring against goalie Shannon Szabados, who registered 21 saves in her last effort. However, Charline Labonte got the start against the U.S. in the prelims and could see time on the ice.
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While winning the gold is motivation enough for these teams, a victory would be especially rewarding for both, considering the opponent. Team USA and Canada have been rivals for years. Canada beat the U.S. in the gold medal game four years ago, and now the Americans are looking for redemption, with 11 players returning from that 2010 disappointment.
"It wasn't a great feeling and it's still a feeling that haunts a bunch of us today and it's definitely in the back of our minds that we don't want to feel that way again," USA forward Hillary Knight told CBS News.
The matchup could end up being the most physical game out of any in Sochi. Less than two months ago, a contest between the two teams featured a brawl. The U.S. had a 4-1 lead in the fifth pre-Olympic matchup between the clubs. Before the final period came to a close, the women on the ice came to blows.
Despite Canada’s strong history in medal games, Bovada.lv lists the U.S. as a slight favorite. Since women’s hockey was added to the Winter Olympics in 1998, the two teams have met in the finals each time with the exception of 2006, when Canada defeated Sweden.
Prediction: USA 3, Canada 2