May 20th, 2024

Canada seeks to turn the tables on United States for women’s world hockey gold

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press on April 13, 2024.

Canada's Emily Clark (26) celebrates her goal over Czechia during second period semifinal hockey action at the IIHF Women's World Hockey Championship in Utica, N.Y., Saturday, April 13, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

UTICA, N.Y. – Canada lost the women’s world hockey championship gold medal on home ice to the United States last year, so poetic justice will be on the minds of Canadian players Sunday in Utica, N.Y.

The two countries will clash for women’s international ice hockey supremacy at the Adirondack Bank Center a year after the U.S. doubled Canada 6-3 for gold in Brampton, Ont.

“Our goal tomorrow is to win,” Canadian forward Blayre Turnbull said. “It doesn’t necessarily matter that we’re in the States, but I think it would feel a little bit special considering they beat us last year on home soil.”

Canada and the U.S. will clash for gold for the 22nd time in 23 world championship finals.

The Canadians blanked Czechia 4-0 and the U.S. shut out Finland 5-0 in Saturday’s semifinals.

Veteran defender Jocelyne Larocque scored and had an assist for Canada in the semifinal. Her goal was the 35-year-old’s second in 10 world championship appearances.

Turnbull and Sarah Fillier also scored in Canada’s victory.

Ann-Renee Desbiens posted a nine-save shutout in the Canada’s net, and thus won’t be worn out for the gold-medal game. Her Czech counterpart Klara Peslarova stopped 43 shots in the loss.

Clark and Larocque became the 14th and 15th players on Canada’s roster to score in the tournament.

American forward Taylor Heise believes a home crowd behind her team Sunday is an advantage.

“Having people getting under like other team’s skin and everything like that, like that’s a plus-one that we’ve talked about in the media,” Heise said. “It’s something that we can’t control and other teams can’t control but it’s in our favour.”

The Americans edged Canada 1-0 in overtime Monday in Group A in the fastest and hardest game ever played between the two countries.

A combined 30 players on the two rosters are in their first season in the Professional Women’s Hockey League and the remainder played in the NCAA.

The fleet-footed U.S. will again want to take away time and space and force Canada in all three zones to make quick decisions with the puck.

“I would say Monday was probably the fastest game I’ve ever been a part of, so it was a lot of fun,” Larocque said. “I don’t see it not being the same tomorrow.

“The rivalry when you’re wearing that Canadian and American jersey, it just brings it out, and especially at a world championship, it brings it up a notch.”

Canada’s roster is older with an average age of 28 compared to 24 for the U.S.

“Probably against what a lot of people think, we don’t look at what roster the Americans are putting out and then adjust our roster to match it,” Canadian head coach Troy Ryan said.

“We pick the best players that we think are available. No matter what happens tomorrow, I can say one hundred per cent I would pick the exact same lineup.”

Fillier, the 2023 tournament MVP, scored her second of the tournament in Saturday’s third period.

Her linemate and captain Marie-Philip Poulin has been held without a goal in the tournament, but has played with an edge to get under opposing players’ skins. She got into a shoving match with Czechia’s Noemi Neubauerova late in Saturday’s semifinal.

Poulin missed three PWHL Montreal games before the international break and sat out a pre-tournament win over Finland heading into the tournament because of an undisclosed injury.

“I like the jam that she’s showing,” Ryan said. “A little conversation I had with her at the hotel is that she will find a way to impact the game one way or another. If her legs are not where they once were for this event, I think she’ll find a way to impact the game.

“Some of the plays she’s making with Fillier are magical and I think they’ll find a way.”

Canada’s power play needs to get on track Sunday after going 1-for-16 in the tournament.

“As long as it’s trending in the right direction, as long as you’re not losing momentum from it, I don’t stress too much when they’re not scoring, based on a short sample,” Ryan said.

Czechia will try for a third straight bronze medal Sunday when it faces Finland.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2024.

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