You can bet that one thing Team Canada head coach Laura Schuler was hammering home to the players as they prepare for this contest was don’t look ahead. Yes, the Canadians still have a round robin match against their arch rivals from south of the border, but they have a serious challenge awaiting them in Team Finland.
The Finns gave the Americans a pretty stiff challenge in the opening matches on Sunday, and while the Americans came away with a 3-1 victory, 2 things really stood out. One, the Finns were not going to shy away from the always physical US squad and two, Noora Raty showed why many consider her the best goalie in the world, almost stealing this one for Finland, stopping 39 of 41 shots. The Finns had led the game, and the Americans got an empty netter late in the 3rd.
So is it a matter of the Finns narrowing the gap that exists between the North American squads and everyone else, or is this a sign the US may not be able to live up to their favored status? We’ll find out tonight and then again on Wednesday as Canada and the US meet in the final game of the round robin and what should be a battle for top spot in the division.
In their opener against Russia, Canada looked solid, but you get the feeling they’re capable of more. It was a little shocking for the two teams to be tied after one period, but they came out hard in the 2nd, and opened the scoring early on a goal from Rebecca Johnston. After an OAR penalty for bodychecking, the Canadian PP went to work, and it was Johnston setting up Haley Irwin for the 2-0 lead. Before the period was over, they’d score again, with Melodie Daoust making it 3-0 from Marie-Philip Poulin and Meghan Agosta.
The Canadian PP struck again in the 3rd, Johnston with her 2nd of the game, from Bridgette Lacquette and Poulin, and the Captain would also set up another one for Daoust , which would see the Russians change their goaltender. Ann-Renee Desbiens was solid, stopping all 18 shots she faced. Canada fired a total of 48 at the two Russian goalies.
It was a bit of a surprise that Schuler started Desbiens over Shannon Szabados, and we’ll have to wait and see who gets the start against the Finns, but between those two and Genevieve Lacasse, Canada looks solid between the pipes. Just a reminder, if you want to explore the women’s game more, both here at the Olympics and in the CWHL and NWHL, check out our friends over at The Ice Garden. They do a fantastic job covering all aspects of women’s hockey.