One of the biggest anticipated preliminary games in Women’s Hockey was Team USA and Team Canada which took place on Thursday evening at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. These two teams have met across a sheet of ice a number of times, especially in the Olympics. Since women’s hockey was added to the Olympics in 1998, Team Canada has won four gold medals (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014) and a silver medal (1998); while Team USA has won a gold medal(1998), three silver medals (2002, 2010, 2014) and a bronze medal (2006). Most consider the preliminary game for these two to be a preview of what the Gold Medal game will look like. And as the two teams were undefeated coming into Thursday night’s game, they are most likely correct.
One of the things that was noticed in this game was the number of higher quality chances that the Americans had throughout the game, unfortunately they struggled to find ways to solve Canada’s goaltender Geneviève Lacasse, in her Olympic debut. Whatever Canada is doing with their goaltender training, they are clearly wizards at it. Throughout the game, the Americans pummeled Lacasse with 45 shots and she let in only one.
At the other end of the ice, Maddie Rooney saw 23 shots throughout the game and allowed three goals, which included one while Canada was on the power play. There were two other pucks that got by Rooney that upon review were disallowed. The first, 3:15 into the first, was disallowed because the whistle had already blown. The second took place at 10:52 of the third period when it was determined that Haley Irwin kicked the puck into the net, rather than having it simply ricochet off her skate.
Team USA’s struggles on the power play and finishing were ultimately what resulted in their loss on Thursday. However, there was also a certain lack of puck luck for them as well. Hitting a couple of posts during the game, and then when Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson was awarded a penalty shot—the result of a Canadian player putting her hand over the puck in the crease—she was unable to get it past Lacasse.
And it is interesting that these two teams saw each other last April during the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championships in Plymouth, Minnesota, and the Gold Medal game saw them equally matched in an exciting game that went to overtime, before the Americans won. So for Canada to outscore Team USA to such a degree was slightly unexpected.
Given how often many of the players on these two teams have seen each other in the past four years, the last time Canada took the gold and left silver for the Americans, there has been a bit of animosity built up between them. Players who off the ice are friends become arch rivals when the jerseys are put on. And Thursday’s game was no different. During the second period there was a scrum of men’s hockey proportions in front of Canada’s net. And perhaps not so surprising was the almost line brawl that erupted right after the game ended.
Having played Canada, the Americans know what they must fix before they most likely see them in the Gold Medal Game on Thursday. In the meantime, both must wait as the quarterfinal games are played on Saturday, February 17, to see who their opponents will be in the semifinals which will take place on Monday afternoon and evening.
The Olympic Athletes of Russia will play Switzerland first and then Finland will take on Sweden in the quarterfinals. The winners of these two games will then reach the semifinals against Canada and the United States. The losers will be relegated to the classification games and one each will play Korea or Japan.