While Sweden represents a different challenge than the U.S. would have in the final, the two teams do have one thing in common. They look for scoring chances off the forecheck by putting pressure on Canada’s defencemen. But this year, Canada’s coaching staff has prepared by putting the defencemen under constant pressure over the course of 22 games against teams from the Alberta Midget Hockey League.
Becky Kellar, a three-time Olympian, will be counted on to log important minutes, and to deal with the Swedish forecheck. Sweden’s forecheck led to both of its goals in regulation time against the U.S., forcing two turnovers and turning them into two goals. Kellar, a native of Hagersville, Ontario, feels the games against midget boy’s teams has prepared them well for what lays ahead in the gold medal final.
“The midget guys are really fast. Playing them so often really helped us having to move the puck under pressure, and make quick decisions. Those were great games for us, and really helped us improve and get ready for anything.”
Kellar, for one, believes Canada is ready for any kind of pressure that Sweden can throw their way. Swedish Head Coach Petr Elander went on the record with media on Saturday that he felt Canada’s defence is its weakness. Kellar is looking forward to the challenge of proving him wrong.
“We haven’t worked on it a lot in this tournament, but in the games leading up to the Olympics, playing against the boys teams, we’ve had a lot of work there. So I definitely don’t think that it’s a weakness at all. We have great goaltending, so I definitely think that’s a strength for us.”
And if Sweden has its focus on Canada’s defence, that’s fine with the Canadians. Because they are maintaining one focus, and it’s the same it has been since the beginning of the season. To focus on Canada and not to focus on its opponent.
“We’ve played them (Sweden) a lot this year. We know what they’re capable of. I wasn’t that surprised that there was an upset. They’re a great team, and we’ve really seen them come on this year. We’ve had great games against them this year, one-goal games, two-goal games and there have been some blowouts. You never really know what to expect. We’re not going to take them lightly. We definitely aren’t. We haven’t all year.”
“I don’t think that we’re looking at this game any differently than if we were playing the U.S., though.”
Kellar on if she thinks that Canada has brought the women’s game to a new level this year
“I definitely think in terms of where this team, I think absolutely (that we’ve taken women’s hockey to a new level). We put that much work into it last Olympics and the Olympics before that. It’s a progression and we’ve gotten better and better the past eight years. I think we’re definitely at a level that we’ve never been at before.”