The U.S. breezed through the first round but in the semi-final round, they faced arch-rival Canada. The Americans have had a stellar record against their northern neighbours, losing the first eight World Championship finals before finally winning in 2005.
The semi-final round has one purpose, for Finland to get two more games in before Canada and the U.S. meet in the final. But first, the two powerhouses met each other in Winnipeg.
And it didn’t look good early. The Americans took a 2-1 lead after one period and led 4-2 with 11 minutes played in the second.
But like the silver-medal champions they are, they gave up goals to Hayley Wickenheiser and Gillian Apps late in the second to tie the game at 4-4.
After a scoreless third, the Americans pleased their fans by going 0 for 3 in the shootout while Wickenheiser gave Canada the victory.
But this set up a dilemma. What if they lose to Finland? They can’t go for silver unless they get to the championship game.
No worries. The U.S. put together a nice 4-0 victory to guarantee their shot at silver. Canada beat the Finns the next night 5-0 to set up the showdown.
A capacity crowd at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg was pumped for the final. The first period was very even and the best chance came late in the period when an American shot hit the post.
But the second period is when that silver medal came much closer to reality. In the first minute, Angela Ruggiero’s former teammate and roommate at Harvard, Jennifer Botterill, used Jayna Hefford as a decoy and sent a near-side shot past goaltender Chanda Gunn, who bought the decoy and slid towards Hefford.
Canada continued to put on the pressure and midway through the second period, Hefford shoved a rebound off a shot by Vicky Sunohara just over the goal line and just under the arm of Gunn to give Canada a 2-0 lead.
Ruggiero’s main task for this game was to make sure Wickenheiser, Canada’s captain who is considered the best forward in women’s hockey, was kept in check. But late in the second, Ruggiero was caught up ice as a neutral-zone turnover caused by Colleen Sostorics sent Wickenheiser on a two-on-one break with Kelly Bechard. Wickenheiser sent a shot past Gunn, as legendary broadcaster Rick Jeanneret would say, “top shelf where mama hides the cookies!”
With the second-intermission score 3-0 Canada, it would take a miracle for the Americans to screw this one up.
Canada took a 4-0 lead on a goal by Danielle Goyette, who had a great tournament for anyone, let alone a 41-year-old.
The U.S. finally got on the board with a goal by captain Krissy Wendell but Sarah Vaillancourt’s breakaway goal sealed the 5-1 victory for Canada and gave the Americans the silver medal they are so accustomed to.
Sir Linksalot: The Apprentice