With a win over the Americans already in the bag, Team Canada must now set its sights on beating Finland in its Playoff Round finale on Monday.
The Canadian squad hit the ice for an hour-long practice at the Winnipeg Winter Club, spending the majority of their time working on specifics for Finland. But they also addressed a few key points from their shootout win over Team USA.
“We really just split it 50/50,” said Canadian Head Coach Melody Davidson. “We worked on some stuff for Finland, and we worked on some things that I feel like we need to be better at against the US, and then the rest will be up to video and just executing.”
Heading into its Monday night game against the Finns, Canada is firing on all cylinders offensively with 22 goals through three games. Team Finland does present some unique challenges for the team, however, especially in regards to game tempo. Canada did get a taste for the blue and white in pre-championship exhibition action, though, dominating Finland 9-0 in Selkirk on March 31st.
“The score is sometimes really deceiving,” said Davidson. “I thought they played really well there for the first 30 minutes, and then a couple of questionable goals went in. And when you are a team battling to knock off the top teams, those questionable goals can hurt you. They always give us a good game. To me, it’s like a semi-final game, and I hate playing Finland in the semi-final game. It feels like every year we have to. But it’ll be a great game.”
Twenty-one-year-old Canadian forward Sarah Vaillancourt played a big part in Canada’s victory over the Americans, but she said Finland is a much different opponent than the USA.
“This is going to be a big game, and it’s going to be a challenge. It’s not going to be the same speed as the US game, but it’s still going to be a challenge to see if we can change our game from what it was last night to that.”
Vaillancourt scored her first goal of the World Women’s Championship midway through the second period of Saturday’s thrilling 5-4 win over Team USA. That power play marker tied the game and helped Canada regain a bit of control.
“We all worked so hard, and it was just a relief to get the tie back to make it 2-2, more than my personal goals,” said Vaillancourt. “I don’t really think about that, I was just really happy for my team.”
Finland has yet to allow a goal at this tournament, using tight defence and stifling goaltending to thwart opponents. And although the Finns have only scored five goals going into the game against Canada, it is important that Vaillancourt and company respect Finland’s offensive potential.
“I think they’re going to play the trap, the high trap like they play, with some more laidback play, and when they get a chance they’ll try to capitalize,” said Vaillancourt. “They can be a good offensive threat sometimes, so we have to be careful and be ready for that.”
Pilot Mound, Manitoba product Delaney Collins also anticipates seeing Finland’s trap Monday night. Collins and the rest of the Canadian defencemen have played well so far in the championship, as they’ve held the opposition to an average of 1.3 goals per game while only allowing one power play goal, and Collins herself has three assists. No defencemen has scored for Team Canada yet, though, but Collins said she and the rest of the blueliners aren’t concerned about it.
“I don’t think it’s relevant. There have been a few posts and a few bad bounces and stuff that really could have gone either way in a tournament like this. If it happens, it does, and that would be great. But if not, I think our overall play is more important, and getting a victory and having a good team game is of the utmost importance.”
A large fan turnout is once again anticipated for Canada’s game against Finland Monday night, and that’s got Collins and her teammates excited.
“It’s like no other experience I’ve had in my hockey career,” Collins said. “The fans are incredible and there’s so much energy out there and just so much positive energy, so it’s fun.”
Some friends and a few members of Collins’ family have been attending games regularly so far, which has given Collins an added jump to her step. Playing in front of family and friends is rarely something the 29 year old gets the pleasure of doing.
“For me it’s been incredible,” said Collins. “The experience so far has been really good. My family and friends are supportive, but they give me my space. I know that they’re excited and proud, and to be honest with you I just feel incredibly fortunate to be at the World Championship in Winnipeg, in Manitoba, in Canada, and I’m trying to take it all in.”
Tickets for Monday night’s game are available through Ticketmaster at (204) 780-3333, or by visiting ticketmaster.ca/iihf.