Switzerland 0 - Canada 9
Matchup: Switzerland 0 vs. Canada 9, 7:30 p.m., MTS Centre | IIHF Summary
RECORD-SETTING NIGHT: CANADA ROARS PAST SWITZERLAND
By Lucas Aykroyd
The race to rule women’s hockey is on, and Team Canada picked up right where it left off at the 2006 Olympics, dominating the Swiss 9-0 on April 3 in its first step toward the goal of regaining the World Championship crown. Canada’s five-goal first period sealed Switzerland’s fate.
In front of 10,706 enthusiastic, mostly white-clad fans at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre (a new single-game tournament attendance record), Danielle Goyette paced Canada’s attack with a hat trick and an assist. This was her first three-goal outing in IIHF competition since an April 4, 2000 win over China. At age 41, Goyette became the oldest female player ever to participate in a World Championship.
“The score doesn’t matter, it’s about the team,” said Goyette. “We had to make sure everybody clicked tonight. The lines did well, and that’s what I’m concerned about.” Captain Hayley Wickenheiser also set the tone for Canada with a goal and three assists. The Shaunavon, Saskatchewan native became the first Canadian ever to reach 250 career points with the National Women’s Team.
“I guess it means you’ve been around for a while,” Wickenheiser said. Meanwhile, Katie Weatherston scored two goals, and Jayna Hefford had a goal and an assist. Caroline Ouellette and Kelly Bechard added singles, and Meghan Agosta, Colleen Sostorics, Gillian Apps, and Delaney Collins registered two assists apiece. Goalie Charline Labonté recorded her fifth shutout in IIHF competition.
Canada outshot Switzerland 63-17 as it gained three points in the standings with a regulation-time win. Canada scored four power play goals, while the Swiss racked up 24 minutes in penalties. It was an excellent start for the host team at both ends of the rink. But Head Coach Melody Davidson will look for an even more consistent 60-minute effort in the games that lie ahead. In the second and third periods, the Canadians got away from shooting the puck with the superb diligence they showed early on.
“With that kind of game and all the special teams, it was hard to keep the units together,” Davidson said. “Our goal was to allow no more than 10 goals against, and to get one goal,” said Swiss Head Coach René Kammerer. “We didn’t get a goal, so that’s not OK, but our team is very proud of this night.”
Just 1:01 in, Canada’s top line opened the scoring. Hayley Wickenheiser burst around the Swiss defense on left wing and set up Gillian Apps in front. Swiss goalie Florence Schelling slid across to make the save, but the puck squirted loose and Danielle Goyette banged the rebound into the gaping net. Canada grabbed a 2-0 lead at the 7:14 mark when Goyette converted Wickenheiser’s cross-crease pass off the rush. At 11:10, Canada went up by three goals on the man advantage, when Wickenheiser finished off a beautiful passing play in the Swiss end with a one-timer from the left faceoff circle.
The Swiss ran into more penalty trouble late in the period, and Canada made them pay. The youth movement came through as Katie Weatherston went to the net and tipped Megan Agosta’s feed high past Schelling with a two-man advantage. It was 5-0 Canada with just 1:10 left in the first, as Jayna Hefford cut in sharply off right wing and roofed the puck past Schelling’s blocker.
The Canadians outshot Switzerland by a whopping 31-3 margin in the opening 20 minutes. Their pace was admittedly more inconsistent in the second period, but they made up for it with two unassisted goals in the last minute. At 19:24, working on the power play, Caroline Ouellette unleashed a wicked wrister from the right faceoff circle through Schelling’s five-hole. Then with eight seconds left before the buzzer, Kelly Bechard gobbled up a rebound to make it 7-0.
Goyette completed her hat trick on the power play at 10:55 of the third period, sliding a low wrister from the right faceoff circle past Schelling’s far skate. That was it for the Swiss netminder, who was replaced by understudy Dominique Slongo. At 12:32, Weatherston took Apps’s pass off the rush and squeezed one past Schelling from the low slot to round out the scoring at 9-0.
Canada’s Player of the Game was Hayley Wickenheiser, and Julia Marty was chosen for Switzerland. Canada’s starting lineup featured Winnipeg native Jennifer Botterill on a line with Meghan Agosta and Jayna Hefford, and a defence pairing of Delaney Collins and Gillian Ferrari.
“I found out at practice [that I was going to start], and I’ve been thinking about it all day today,” said Collins with a relieved laugh. “I sent out a few emails saying I was going to be in the starting lineup. I tried to enjoy it.” It was a festive atmosphere from start to finish. During the opening ceremonies, youngsters skated around waving flags to represent the nine participating nations in the 2007 IIHF World Women’s Championship Winnipeg.
After video-screen messages from tournament chairwoman Polly Craik, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, and IIHF vice-president Walter Bush Jr., a rousing cheer went up when Steve Yzerman, the GM of Canada’s 2007 entry in the IIHF World Championship in Russia, accompanied Florence Murray, the mother of Yzerman’s just-announced coach Andy Murray, to centre ice for the ceremonial puck drop. A choir from Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary School sang “O Canada” in honour of the host nation. Canada can clinch top spot in Group B with a win over Germany on April 5. The Swiss will face their German-speaking rivals at the MTS Centre the day before.
Switzerland: Seeded seventh in the IIHF World Rankings, the Swiss cannot be favoured in tonight’s confrontation, to say the least. The only potential factor that might help them is Canada’s lack of a detailed scouting report on the famously neutral nation. Switzerland hasn’t gone head-to-head against Canada since the 1999 IIHF World Women’s Championship, and has never scored against Team Canada in tournament history. The Swiss posted a .500 record in exhibition play, beating Kazahkstan 5-1 and losing 7-6 to Russia this past week. But how the Swiss will fare in the tournament itself is a matter of speculation. Head Coach Rene Kammerer, who led Switzerland at the 2006 Olympics, will encourage solid positional play to the degree possible tonight. Florence Schelling, 18, will most likely get the start in goal against Canada after playing half the games in Turin. If Kammerer decides to save his more experienced goalie for the crucial game against Germany on April 4, we’ll see another 18-year-old, Dominique Slongo, in net. Trying to develop some consistency will be the key for this young team, and gaining experience will be the focus tonight.
Canada: Headlining Group B, the host team has already looked in fine form with two exhibition wins since arriving in Manitoba. Yes, Team Canada is fired up for the start of the 2007 IIHF World Women’s Championship. The 9-1 win in Dauphin against the Central Plains Midget AAA Capitals on March 27 and the routing of Team Finland 9-0 in Selkirk on March 31 were impressive, but now those results are in the past. The objective is to get better and better in each tournament game. Whoever ends up being the starting netminder this evening will most likely not see much action, but will still have to be alert and on top of her game. We’ll also see Head Coach Melody Davidson experimenting with forward lines, trying to build chemistry in the early going. With Hayley Wickenheiser (tournament MVP and Best Forward at the 2006 Olympics), as team captain this time around, Canada’s looking good to win its opener tonight. There is just too much firepower on Canada’s side, from veterans like Danielle Goyette and Jayna Hefford to youngsters such as Katie Weatherston and Meghan Agosta. The boisterous crowd, decked out in white, will add further inspiration.