Canada 5 - United States 1
Matchup: Canada 5 vs. USA 1, 7:30 p.m., MTS Centre | IIHF Summary
TEAM CANADA SPEAKS OF TRIUMPH, USA OF REGRETS
By Lucas Aykroyd
After winning its ninth IIHF World Women’s Championship gold medal, the hearts of Team Canada players were overflowing with emotion. The Americans, meanwhile, could only imagine what might have been in Winnipeg. HockeyCanada.ca caught up with both sides after the finale at the MTS Centre.
Hayley Wickenheiser, Canada: We saved our best game for the final, and I’m really happy with our team effort. I think we really dominated tonight. This is what we live for. Fifteen thousand people rode the wave with us tonight. We really enjoyed it, and I’m really proud of my team. We’re proud to be in Canada and for these fans in Winnipeg. I thought it was the best gold medal game that we’ve played in the World Championships. [For me], it was a good tournament, and things were going in the net. I think I was seeing things pretty well. I just felt good on the ice all over the place, and really relaxed and composed most of the time. So I was able to play some of my best hockey.
Jennifer Botterill, Canada: It was nice [to score the first goal], but what it was about was getting the team going. It was a shot, but it hit something, and then went in. But I’ll take it. I think it built momentum. People built off that every shift. Again, we were focused on playing the whole 60 minutes. Again, I’m really proud of the entire team and working together tonight.
Vicky Sunohara, Canada: The crowd was just unbelievable. There were so many jerseys and flags and signs up. It was absolutely unbelievable. It’s really things like this that make it really hard to retire, because it’s so exciting, so much fun. And it’s really just undescribable. I’ve had a great time, and it ended exactly the way we wanted it to.
Kim St-Pierre, Canada: It gave a lot of confidence to my teammates when I made some early saves. We knew the US would be ready for this game, and if I made some key saves early, we’d get the momentum going on our side, and that’s what we did. When you score three goals [in the second period], it’s so much easier for the goalie to stay in the game and play with more confidence. So I enjoyed my night tonight.
Charline Labonté, Canada: It’s a great feeling. Of course it sucks to be on the bench. I was hoping to get the gold medal game, but I played two good games in the tournament, and I really feel like I helped the team to be part of this game. I was just trying to cheer for them and have a big smile on my face.
Delaney Collins, Canada: Perfect! That was perfect! I couldn’t have written it better. I’m just over-the-top happy right now. The fans weren’t pressing us, they were just encouraging us. The perfect building, the perfect atmosphere, and the fans today were just spectacular. This is phenomenal for women’s hockey. I don’t know that you could create a better situation. All Canadians should be proud. I think that especially the people of Winnipeg that put on this tournament should feel incredibly proud. We’re fortunate just to be able to play in this environment.
Danielle Goyette, Canada: It never gets old. You always pick something up when you play a different team. It’s so much fun to be able to be with young players. We had a good mix this year. I think tonight we did better than the first time we played the US. That’s what we talked about before the game. We had to share the puck and use our speed, and we had the results on our side tonight. I saw [signs urging me to play in the 2010 Olympics in the crowd] at the end of the game, but it was the same in 2002. For me, I just want to go back home, get some rest, and think about what I want to do, if I want to keep going on. But every time I step on the ice, I always enjoy the time, because it could be my last.
Melody Davidson, Head Coach, Canada: The media’s been terrific at covering all the teams here at this tournament. I think that’s really important for women’s hockey. Despite the outcome, I want to congratulate [USA Coach Mark Johnson] on his team tonight. They put forth a great tournament, and we had to earn every inch of the ice tonight. I was really pleased with my team, though. I thought we battled. The first period was a great period of hockey, and then in the second, we got some momentum and some bounces, especially on that second goal. And I thought that was important. But overall, I thought it was a terrific day for women’s hockey. It was just fun to be on the bench.
Krissy Wendell, USA: I thought we bounced back quite well after we gave up a goal. We got ourselves into some penalty trouble. We gave the Canadians the momentum. They got a little bit bigger lead, and it was hard to bounce back from. But I thought we played hard. They put more pucks in the net. [Regarding the Canada-USA rivalry], “intense” would be a good word, but I think “enjoyable” at the same time. I don’t think there’s another team in the tournament they would have wanted to play, and there wasn’t another team in the tournament we wanted to play. It was a great game. Intense.
Natalie Darwitz, USA: We didn’t play well tonight as a team. That was definitely a problem. It was a frustrating game, knowing the potential we have. What we wanted to do tonight didn’t really pan out. [In terms of our overall tournament], I think it’s a very good step in the right direction. Coach Johnson steered the ship, and things were just like night and day. He’s a phenomenal coach. I’ve learned so much from him already. Just a class act guy. Hopefully you guys can see a different US team from last year, and see the improvement. Hopefully we’ll take this and learn from it and work hard this summer, and try to grow from our experiences.
Chanda Gunn, USA: When you’re playing, you know, you only see what you see [in terms of Canada’s second goal]. Unfortunately, the call didn’t go my way. But I’m sure the goal judges made what they thought was the best decision. It didn’t make that much of an impact, because we still lost 5-1. I don’t think we ever slowed down. It just goes to show that St-Pierre isn’t an easy goalie to beat. [Looking ahead to the future], rumor has it that our team has 10 days off! It’s a big treat for us, but then we’re right back to work. Coach Johnson just told us in the locker room a story about Wayne Gretzky, and one year he was playing for the Oilers and walked by the locker room of the Islanders when they lost the Stanley Cup finals, and he thought he’d see a bunch of guys celebrating, but instead, all the Islanders in the room were sitting around with ice packs. That’s when Gretzky realized he thought he’d given it his all, but he hadn’t. And he went back to work that summer, and his team went on to win the Stanley Cup. That’s where we’re at right now.
Mark Johnson, Head Coach, USA: I just want to thank the city of Winnipeg. It was a great 10 days for women’s hockey. I want to congratulate my team on their commitment over the last three weeks. They gave themselves an opportunity to go out for a gold medal. We came up a little bit short tonight, but I’m very proud of the effort.
Canada: Tonight’s dramatic conclusion to the 2007 IIHF World Women’s Championship stars the principal actors that everyone was expecting, but the story that unfolds could contain many surprising twists. After all, just look at the crazy sequence of events when Canada and the USA met earlier in this tournament, with the host team eking out a 5-4 shootout win after rallying from a 4-2 deficit. Some games are relatively easy to predict. For instance (to engage in a little horn-tooting), HockeyCanada.ca’s preview for the Canada-Finland game stated: “Expect a result similar to the USA’s 4-0 win over Finland, possibly with a wider margin for Canada.” (Final score: Canada 5, Finland 0.) Well, this is unlikely to be one of those “easy” games, in any sense of the word. The Canadians should be ready after posting substantial shutout victories in three out of four games to date, but they’re well aware that in 2005, they didn’t allow a single goal in regulation time and still came up short in the gold medal shootout. In every IIHF women’s tournament, Canada constructs its team to beat the USA, and tonight is where the nation discovers if the right materials have been chosen. For goaltending, Head Coach Melody Davidson faces a delightful dilemma: start Kim St-Pierre, the winningest netminder in National Women’s Team history with 50 victories, or Charline Labonté, the one who thwarted the Americans in Saturday’s encounter and backstopped Canada to last year’s Olympic gold versus Sweden? Either way, Canada should be in good hands. The trio of Danielle Goyette, Vicky Sunohara, and Kelly Bechard emerged as a dominant force versus the Finns, producing all the offence Canada needed in a three-goal first-period explosion. Expect that line to remain intact tonight, at least initially. Hayley Wickenheiser has been everything a captain should be, as a leader and as a points producer. And the defence has done its job, with every blueliner enjoying a positive plus-minus rating. But statistics will only tell you so much about the way this game is likely to go. For Canada, there are intangible motivations: the desire to win on home ice, the need to regain the crown after losing it in 2005, the urge to keep alive the unblemished record in IIHF play that the team put together in Turin. In front of a hyped-up, sell-out crowd, the young players need to step up alongside the veterans. It will be physical and intense. To sum up, Canada has to deliver its best game of the tournament in order to win tonight.
USA: The Americans have their own set of motivations for victory. Nothing would be sweeter for them than to upset the host team in a hockey hotbed like Winnipeg, with a coast-to-coast Canadian audience watching on TSN. With nine losses and just two victories in World Championship play against Canada, the USA would love to step out of the role of junior partner or punching bag, and prove that 2005’s shootout victory over its northern rival wasn’t just an anomaly. And yes, the Americans have overhauled their roster substantially, but nonetheless, 11 members of the team were there in Turin when they lost 3-2 to the Swedes in the semi-final shootout that marked the biggest upset in women’s hockey history. Can these women take a page out of the 2002 Swedish men’s Olympic team’s book? Many of those players, from Mats Sundin to Nicklas Lidstrom, were humiliated when they lost 4-3 to lowly Belarus in the quarter-finals. But in 2006, they roared back with a vengeance to claim Olympic gold, and they would certainly hope to be remembered more for that feat than for the moment when goalie Tommy Salo allowed a late blooper from centre ice. Head Coach Mark Johnson has a difficult decision to make about his goaltending: does he go with youngster Jessie Vetter, who got the call versus Canada last time, or veteran Chanda Gunn, who would love an opportunity for redemption after being part of the Olympic loss to Sweden? If the USA has an advantage in this game, it may be on the blueline, where mobile (and in many cases, sizable) players like Molly Engstrom, Caitlin Cahow, and Angela Ruggiero have been chipping in offensively while also taking care of their own end. The USA’s top three scorers are captain Krissy Wendell, Natalie Darwitz, and Sarah Parsons, and they all boast greater ability to beat opponents 1-on-1 with finesse and speed than almost any other women in the game (although Canada can counter in that department with Wickenheiser, Goyette and others). So, have we already seen the best this American team has to give? Or did the Americans really come away with a greater sense of confidence about being able to compete with Canada after that Saturday shootout loss, as they claimed to the media? The speculation ends tonight. The real story will come out on the ice.