LES CANADIENNES SONT REVENUES FÊTER SUR LA GLACE, APRÈS LA CÉRÉMONIE

VANCOUVER – Les hockeyeuses de l'équipe canadienne auraient voulu que le temps s'arrête après avoir remporté la médaille d'or contre leurs grandes rivales américaines, jeudi.

Une quarantaine de minutes après la cérémonie de remises des médailles à la Place Hockey du Canada, et après avoir accordé des dizaines d'entrevues, plusieurs joueuses sont revenues sur la glace en patins, bouteilles de champagne, énormes cigares et canettes de bière à la main, ainsi que leurs médailles d'or autour du cou évidemment.

La cadette de l'équipe, Marie-Philip Poulin, qui n'a même pas l'âge légal à 18 ans de consommer de l'alcool en Colombie-Britannique, trinquait allègrement.

Poulin et les autres qui l'accompagnaient, les gardiennes Kim St-Pierre et Charline Labonté entre autres, savouraient l'instant présent. Elles se faisaient prendre en photo en compagnie de bénévoles et de gens de la sécurité, elles signaient des autographes. Une d'entre elle est même montée sur la resurfaceuse, faisant résonner le klaxon à quelques reprises.

C'était le repos de guerrières qui le méritaient amplement après s'être imposées de nombreux sacrifices au cours de la dernière année, principalement.

L'équipe a bénéficié d'une préparation comme jamais elle en avait eu auparavant. Elle a disputé une trentaine de matchs contre des équipes midget AAA de l'Alberta.

“Nous savions que nous devions en faire davantage que les Américaines sur le plan de la préparation et nous n'avons négligé aucun détail, a noté la capitaine Hayley Wickhenheiser. Ça n'a pas été une victoire facile. Nous avons eu à jouer souvent en infériorité numérique. Ça n'a pas été joli, mais nous avons fait le travail.”

Tant du côté canadien qu'américain, on s'entendait pour dire que les deux situations dont les Américaines n'ont pu profiter en double supériorité numérique ont été un tournant de la finale.

“Rien n'est arrivé ce soir (jeudi) qui nous a pris de court, a enchaîné Wickhenheiser. C'est là qu'on constate que nous étions très bien préparées. Ca fait partie du processus si on veut être des championnes olympiques. On doit se soucier du moindre détail et redoubler d'ardeur dans l'anonymat.”

St-Pierre sereine

Kim St-Pierre aurait souhaité se voir offrir la chance de clôturer sa carrière en se retrouvant devant le filet. Mais l'entraîneuse Melody Davidson a décidé de faire confiance à la jeune Shannon Szabados, estimant qu'elle avait "mieux fait que St-Pierre" au cours de la dernière année.

“On espère toujours prendre part aux matchs importants, a avancé St-Pierre. J'ai été déçue sur le coup. Jusqu'à maintenant, j'avais une belle carrière avec l'équipe nationale. Mais quand on apprend la nouvelle, il n'y a rien qu'on puisse faire, sauf soutenir ses coéquipières. Ça n'a pas été facile, mais la couleur de la médaille est la même pour tout le monde. C'est réellement un super moment pour moi.”

St-Pierre, âgée de 31 ans, a rendu hommage à Szabados, en disant qu'elle avait beaucoup de potentiel.

“Elle a fait de gros arrêts en début de match et ça nous a aidés à prendre confiance, a-t-elle commenté. Les filles ont par la suite bloqué des tirs et elle a fait des arrêts dans les moments importants. On s'est tiré d'affaires lors de deux cinq-contre-trois. C'est à partir de ce moment-là qu'on a senti que rien ne pouvait nous arrêter.”

Labonté, elle, a suivi l'action des gradins après avoir défendu le filet du Canada en finale de 2006, à Turin.

“C'est différent cette fois-ci, a-t-elle souligné. Je me suis blessée à une cheville, l'an dernier, et j'ai accepté mon rôle. Je voulais gagner la médaille d'or. Peu importe la façon dont ça se produit, c'est mission accomplice”, a résumé Labonté, qui ne sait pas si elle va poursuivre pendant un autre cycle olympique.

L'attaquante Gina Kingsbury, une des six Québécoises de l'équipe, avait peine à décrire à l'aide de mots les émotions qu'elle ressentait.

“De gagner chez nous, devant notre foule, c'est indescriptible comme sentiment, a déclaré la patineuse de Rouyn-Noranda. C'était tellement bruyant dans l'amphithéâtre. On aurait dit que les partisans nous ont donné un deuxième souffle. C'était extraordinaire et on dirait que je ne réalise pas encore que nous avons gagné.”

Game Information
No du match 20
Ronde Médaille d'or
Arena Canada Hockey Place
City, Country Vancouver, C.-B., CAN
Date Jeu. 25 fév. 2010
Heure 15h30 PT

 

Box Score/Compte 1 2 3 Final
CAN 2 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0

 

Goals & Penalties/ Buts et pénalités
First Period/Première période

Goals/Buts : 
13:55 CAN Marie-Philip Poulin (Jennifer Botteril)
16:50 CAN Marie-Philip Poulin (Meghan Agosta)

Penalties/Pénalités : 
03:49 USA Jenny Poter (Hooking /Accrocher)
08:18 USA Lisa Chesson (Hooking /Accrocher)
10:00 CAN Gina Kingsbury (Body-checking/Mise en échec corporelle)
11:21 CAN Catherine Ward (Interference/Obstruction)
16:11 CAN Jayna Hefford (Slashing/Coup de bâton)
16:47 USA Jinelle Zaugg-Siergie (Hooking /Accrocher)

Second Period/Deuxième période

Goals/Buts : 
None/Aucun

Penalties/Pénalités : 
02:25 CAN Jayna Hefford (Delay of game/Retarder le match)
02:58 CAN Becky Kellar (Delay of game/Retarder le match)
10:01 USA Caitilin Cahow (Hooking /Accrocher)
14:49 USA Angela Ruggiero (Interference/Obstruction)
16:56 CAN Jayna Hefford (Unsportsmanlike Conduct/Conduite antisportive)

Third Period/Troisième période

Goals/Buts : 
None/Aucun

Penalties/Pénalités : 
None/Aucun

 

Goaltenders/Gardiens de but
CAN Shannon Szabado
USA

Jessi Vetter

 

Shots on Goal/Tirs au but 1 2 3 Total
CAN 8 10 11 29
USA 7 13 7 28

CANADIAN WOMEN TAKE BATTLE HONED GAME INTO OLYMPIC WOMEN'S HOCKEY FINAL

VANCOUVER – The Canadian women's hockey team feels they could not be more prepared for what is setting up to be the best women's hockey game in history.

Canada pushed the envelope as much as they could the last six months, so they would be ready to beat the U.S. for the Olympic women's hockey gold Thursday at Canada Olympic Place.

They played 55 games, including 30 against midget triple-A boys' teams, who provided a level of competition comparable to the American women.

“The game play and playing 50-plus games leading into this has been huge for us,” forward Jayna Hefford of Kingston, Ont., said Wednesday. “That's where we've seen our real development I think.

“It's a huge edge for us. I like our team in a lot of ways. But our preparation, I can't say there's anything I would have wanted to do differently, better or more of.”

Captain Hayley Wickenheiser feels the games in the Alberta Midget Hockey League gives her team the edge against the U.S., who didn't play as many games, nor as many against male competition.

“That's been the key for us,” she said. “It gives us the confidence to know we can play opponents who are bigger, stronger and faster in some cases and play a team game and have success, getting pressure in our own end, being down a goal or up a goal, last-minute situations. We played through all those situations this year.

“We're confident no matter how the game is going, we can stay with it.”

The Canadian women played games against AMHL team before the 2006 Olympics and their record was about .500. They were 20-10 against AMHL competition this time. Games against the Canadian women counted for points in the league standings for the midget teams.

The challenge for both the Canadian and Americans women is finding enough competition to prepare to meet each other because of the gap between them and the rest of the world.

Canada's defence gets little sustained pressure in international tournaments, so their games have been mostly in the offensive end of the ice until they face the U.S. Then, they're suddenly under pressure, rusty at working the puck out of their end and occasionally coughing up the puck with disastrous outcomes.

The midget games gave the Canadian women enough time in front of their own net to work on defence.

“They were tough in that area all year,” Calgary Royals coach Ryan Hilderman said. “You could certainly tell that was a focus. They blocked shots, collapsed to the net and they definitely did what was necessary to keep pucks out of their own net.

“All of our games with them were very close. We had three opportunities to pull our goalies and really throw everything in the kitchen sink at them. They just did an outstanding job to doing whatever it took to keep the puck out of their own net.”

Preparation is one thing, execution is another.

If the Canadians feel confident so do the U.S. because they've beaten Canada in the last two games that really mattered in their sport, which were the 2008 and 2009 world championship finals.

Sweden upset the U.S. in the semifinal of the 2006 Olympics in Turin. But the American team recovered and has flourished since then under head coach Mark Johnson, part of the U.S. gold medal winning 1980 Miracle on Ice team. While the Canadian women have been together since August, American players not in college have been together in Blaine, Minn., for two winters.

And Johnson says playing as many games as Canada did heading into the Olympics could be counterproductive.

“Sometime if you play too many games there's a lot of wear and tear,” he said. “I know the early part of their schedule, they were travelling a lot and that just wears you out.”

The Americans are 3-7 in games played against their archrivals since September, but their last meeting was almost a toss-up. Canada edged the U.S. 3-2 in a shootout in Ottawa on Jan. 1.

Goaltender Jessie Vetter, in net for both world championship wins, feels one game for gold is an equalizer no matter what has gone on before.

“It makes it a little bit more intense, one night, live or die,” she said. “Beat it out of each other and see who comes out on top.”

Expect Vetter in net for the U.S. on Thursday. Canadian head coach Melody Davidson wasn't revealing Wednesday whether she would go with Shannon Szabados or Kim St. Pierre in net, but signs pointed to Szabados.

The 23-year-old played in Monday's 5-0 win over Finland in the semifinal at Canada Hockey Place. St. Pierre's last start was a 13-1 win over Sweden a week ago at Thunderbird Arena.

Davidson feels Leah Wrazidlo of the U.S., is the best referee in women's hockey and had hoped she would be assigned to Thursday's game, even though Canada is playing the U.S. But Aina Hove of Norway will referee the final for a second time after she worked Canada's 4-1 win over Sweden in the 2006 championship game.

International women's hockey has yet to go to a two-referee system like the men. The International Ice Hockey Federation doesn't feel the women's game warrants two referees.

Canada lost eight straight games to the U.S. before beating them 3-2 in the 2002 Olympic final in Salt Lake City.

The two best teams in the world eight years are better in development than they were in 2002 and meeting for Olympic gold in a North American venue could make it the most watched women's game in history.

“It has all the makings to be,” Wickenheiser said. “Certainly the talent is there on both sides. Obviously with the crowd being here in North America and in Canada, everybody is going to be really into it, which is something we haven't had.”

It's the Canadians that have the pressure of trying to win at home this time. This is also the Stanley Cup of women's hockey that comes around only every four years.

“Obviously they're going to feel a little pressure,” U.S. captain Natalie Darwitz said. “They've got to perform in front of their fans, but at the same time it's probably going to bring them a bit of an adrenaline.

“Having that 'Go Canada Go' cheer is going to give them a few extra shots of adrenaline and they can skate and pass a little harder, but at the same time it could do the opposite and make them a little nervous and have a little more pressure and force them to do things earlier than they want to do on the ice.”

As far as turning the tables and beating Canada for gold on home ice, ‘it would be nice,” Darwitz said.

“Our goal is to get a gold medal,” she added. “If we do beat them on home ice, that's the cherry on top of the sundae.”

“We're expecting a gold medal,” Hilderman said. “Maybe they'll bring some back for us.”

Jeux olympiques d'hiver 2010 (Femmes)
Ronde préliminaire
13 févr. CAN 18 - SVK 0
15 févr. SUI 1 - CAN 10
17 févr. CAN 13 - SWE 1
Demi-finales
22 févr. USA 9 - SWE 1
22 févr. CAN 5 - FIN 0
Médaille de bronze
févr.
FIN 3 - SWE 2 (OT)
Médaille d'or
25 févr. CAN 2 - USA 0
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