The biggest rivalry in women’s hockey is about to have another chapter written in its storybook when Canada faces the United States for an unprecedented 15th consecutive time at the World Championships.
And if the opening game of the tournament between these two countries was a preview, fans in Ottawa, ON are in for a treat. In that matchup, Canada came back from a late 2-0 deficit to tie the game with a couple of minutes left in the third and eventually win in a shootout.
It would be an understatement to say these teams don’t bring out the best out of each other. They believe it too.
“We know it’s our biggest challenge and our biggest rival,” said forward Jayna Hefford (Kingston, ON) after playing her 150th career international game in the semis – an 8-1 defeat of Russia. “We know that we’ve got to bring it to win. Clearly we’re the top two teams in the world and you always want to beat the best.”
Both teams can expect a lot of firepower and a ton of shots fired at their goalies with two very explosive lineups.
“I think every time we play Canada it’s exciting as a goaltender,” said American Jessie Vetter coming off of a 3-0 shoutout win of Sweden in her semifinal. “You know you’re going to see shots. They’re going to pressure you and make you play your best game.”
The best game of the tournament is what this is lining up to be. Canadians ran through every other opponent they faced scoring a total of 29 goals and conceding only two. Likewise, the Americans also had an easy time on their way to the final, scoring a more modest 12 goals and letting in four.
The prospect of playing a more evenly matched squad has the players enthusiastic.
“Playing Canada are the games that I live for personally,” said American forward Hilary Knight. “It’s a great rivalry, so we’re excited. It’ll be a great match-up for the fans. That’s when the crowd is biggest and the rivalry is deepest. “
A sentiment shared by Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser (Shaunavon, SK) .
“It’s a different type of hockey from what we play all tournament long,” said forward Wickenheiser about her American opponents. “It’s definitely more fun to play and fun for the fans too. The games are competitive both ways. This is what we play for.”
For Canada to win, the women will need to have a much better start in this game than they did in their first go around against the U.S. at a time were a single goal can be the difference maker.
“I think you saw in the first game we’re two pretty evenly matched teams,” said Hefford. “We didn’t like how we started that game, but we loved how we finished it. The challenge for us is to play that way (the whole game).”
A large crowd is expected to fill the rink in Ottawa as the two best women’s teams in the world square off for global supremacy on Tuesday, April 9. The game will be broadcast live on TSN at 7:30 p.m. EST.
– George Fadel