Feb. 13 (UPI) — Team Canada has advanced to the gold medal game in Women’s Olympic hockey as it seeks to reclaim its place atop the podium after a heartbreaking shootout loss to the Americans four years ago.
The Canadian women booked their ticket to the finals by trouncing the Swiss 10-3 in semifinals play on Monday, with nine different goal scorers, including Captain Clutch Marie-Philip Poulin with two and Claire Thompson netting a goal and two assists for a total of 12 points during the tournament, a new Olympic record for most points by a defenseman.
Sarah Nurse also got four assists, giving her 16 points, one off the Olympic record set by Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser in 2006. The team improved to an impressive 54 goals for the tournament as it continues its perfect 6-0 record.
However, none of the accolades, records and goals scored en route to the finals will matter unless the Canadians come home with gold medals around their necks after the United States ended their streak of four consecutive championships in overtime at the Pyeongchang 2018 Games.
The Canucks were the heavy favorites to beat the Swiss team Monday after downing them 12-1 in the preliminary round, but the Europeans put up a solid fight and were never counted out until the third period.
Canada was on the board at about four minutes into the game with Thompson scoring with a rifle of a shot off the left post and in.
Off a Canadian faceoff win in the Swiss zone, Rebecca Johnston fired the puck from the hashmarks near the far boards to Thompson in the high slot, who nailed it past Swiss goaltender Andrea Braendli.
A little more than a minute after that, Jamie Lee Rattray put the Canadians up by two.
Off another faceoff win by Canada back to the point, Canada’s defense generated a shot toward the net and Rattray fired the loose puck home.
The third goal came about 30 seconds later, with Canadians putting on a proper cycle clinic in the Swiss end.
Johnston carried the puck up from the corner to the blue line where Thompson picked it up while streaking down the boards.
Then as she cut into the center, she pulled a move on Swiss forward Noemi Ryhner that opened up a lane to the net. And as she took it, the Swiss defense collapsed on her, leaving an open Blayre Turnbull in the shot who backhanded it home.
Following a time out by the Swiss team, Canada would go up 4-0 with a goal 20 seconds later as Renata Fast tipped a shot-pass over the shoulder of Braendli, who was then replaced in net by Saskia Maurer.
However, the onslaught would continue and a little more than a minute later Canada would go up 5-0 with a shot from Erin Ambrose.
With less than two minutes to go in the period and on the power play following a Micah Zandee-Hart high-sticking penalty, the Swiss were able to get onto the board.
With Canada down a player and failing to get out of their own zone, Lara Stalder fired home a wicked shot that caught the top corner over Anne-Renee Desbiens’ shoulder, giving the Europeans a bit of life going into the second.
During the second frame, the Swiss were able to momentarily narrow their deficit to three with an Alina Muller goal scored on the rush from a pass by Stalder.
Their momentum was soon dashed by Poulin, however, who blasted a shot from the top of the circles off a pass from Nurse, giving the Canadians a 6-2 lead.
Emily Clark would score seconds later for a 7-2 lead, but the Canadians would send the Swiss back to the power play where Stalder would convert again, unassisted.
Stalder picked up the puck that had spilled to her in front of the net following a Canada turnover, and put it through Desbiens’ five hole, making it 7-3.
Poulin, however, would respond with a beauty of a goal as she came in on Maurer essentially all alone and pulled a forehand move before tucking it under the bar with a backhander for an 8-3 lead, essentially putting the game out of the Swiss’ reach.
In the third, Emma Maltais put Canada up 9-3 with Brianne Jenner making it 10-3 with less than two minutes remaining.
Canada had 61 shots to the Swiss’s 13.
During the second intermission, Thompson credited her points record to the work of her teammates.
“Our team has been generating a lot of offense and a lot of my points have come off assists so a lot of work off the puck and the girls are doing the right stuff and pucks are going in for us,” the first-time Olympian told CBC’s Kenzie Lalonde.
Now, the Canadian women will play for gold against the winners of Monday night’s semifinal between the powerhouse reigning champion United States and Finland.