Hockey fans get the golden matchup they wanted in women's final

Enjoy an up close and personal look at the action in Canada.
McClatchy Newspapers
Monday, February 22, 2010; 10:12 PM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- U.S. defenseman Kerry Weiland got a little ahead of herself Monday after the women's hockey team beat Sweden 9-1 to reach the gold-medal game.

After four games of not looking ahead, the Americans now can.

"It's a dream come true to be playing Canada," Weiland said before catching herself.

Canada hadn't yet played Finland when Weiland began talking about the game hockey fans long have been anticipating. The Canadians later did what they were supposed to do, beating Finland 5-0 and setting up the showdown between the U.S. and Canada on Thursday night.

Only once has the women's Olympic hockey final not featured the U.S. vs. Canada. That came four years ago when the Americans were upset by Sweden 3-2 in a shootout in the semifinals.

On the 30th anniversary of the "Miracle on Ice," the U.S. women's team made sure there wasn't a repeat as the Americans outshot the Swedes 46-12. The Americans had 13 players with at least one point. Forward Monique Lamoureux had a hat trick, and defenseman Caitlin Chow had a goal and an assist.

"I don't really like to think of it as revenge," forward Julie Chu said. "I think you just learn from your past. One of the things that we're learning from 2006 is that we have to stay in the present moment, make sure we go out there and play shift-by-shift and make sure we don't let ourselves get ahead of the game." The U.S. outscored its four Olympic opponents -- China, Russia, Finland and Sweden -- 42-2. Both the goals they allowed were power-play goals.

But the Americans know their next game won't be that easy.

Swedish goalie Kim Martin predicted that if Canada and the U.S. played 10 times, the Canadians would win six.

"That's her opinion, and I disagree with it," Lamoureux said.

The U.S. has beaten the Canadians for the last two world titles, which is why the Americans are ranked No. 1 in the world. But Canada beat the Americans five consecutive times in exhibition games leading up to the Games.

"If it was easy, I might go try something else," U.S. coach Mark Johnson said. "Different times in the last three or four years, each hockey club seems to go on a stretch for three or four games and play very well. For whatever reason, it goes the other direction, and the other team starts to play a little bit better, a little bit more passionate, a little bit harder and has success. History tells us what happens prior to the Olympics doesn't really matter." The U.S. is casting itself as the underdog Thursday, hoping to put even more pressure on the home team.

Jenny Potter and Angela Ruggiero know the feeling. They were on the 2002 U.S. team that took an 8-0 record into the gold medal game against the Canadians in Salt Lake City only to settle for silver.

"Everyone says they're the favorites," Ruggiero said after the victory over the Russians earlier in the tournament. "We're going with that. It's 'their sport' on their home turf. All the pressure is on them no matter what they say. I was there in '02. We had the weight of the nation on our backs. They have that now." Game on.

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