Two familiar foes will square off in Winnipeg tonight in the Women's World Hockey Championship Final at the MTS Centre. Team USA plays Team Canada for the 10th time in the championship in tournament history. Canada has won eight gold medals, while Team USA won the last Women's World Championship in 2005 in Linkoping, Sweden. The Canadian women won the Olympic gold medal last year in place of the World Championship, and that is still fresh in the minds of the Americans who lost 5-4 in a shootout this past Saturday. However, US captain Krissy Wendell also remembers the feeling of her first World Championship win with Team USA.
"I always remember lining up at the blue line and being able to watch our flag go up and actually sing, because I'd heard 'O Canada' a few too many times," said Wendell. The 25-year-old US hockey veteran from Minnesota is playing in her sixth world championship.
The Canadians and Americans are very evenly-matched, and both sides know that the team that wins will be the team that capitalizes on the other's mistakes. The American forecheck gave Canada problems getting out of its own end early Saturday, and Canada twice had to come from behind to tie the game before winning it in penalty shots.
"We've got to clean up in our end and take care of the little things in our end and help each other out," Team Canada star Hayley Wickenheiser said. "With the new rules, you are holding back not wanting to take a penalty, but tomorrow night I think we're going to be able to play a little more physical than we have in the tournament."
The players who lost two years for Team Canada in Sweden don't want to see a repeat of the 2005 World Championships on home soil.
"Not something to dwell on, but remember in the back of your mind," veteran Canadian forward Vicky Sunohara said. "We want to win for ourselves, we want to win for the country. The Americans want to win it too, so we need to come out hard and keep the crowd on our side and keep them in the game because that's huge.
"We need to use that playing in Canada."
Both teams are expecting the sold-out MTS Centre to be energetic for the Canadian women, and the Americans will be ready.
"Canada-U.S., it's the best game you can watch in women's hockey," Wendell said after practice Monday. "There's not a hatred. When you play on a great team, you want to go and play another great team."
In other games Monday, Sweden beat Switzerland 3-0 and will play in Tuesday's bronze-medal game against Finland, who lost to the Canadians 5-0 and the Americans 4-0. Russia defeated Germany 4-0 in the relegation round. Kazakhstan finished last in the tournament, and will be relegated to the World-B Championship. Japan won promotion to the 2008 Women's World Championship in China on Sunday.
The Championship game can be viewed on TSN Broadband, and is available here.
1. To be determined (Canada or USA)
2. To be determined (Canada or USA)
3. To be determined (Finland or Sweden)
4. To be determined (Finland or Sweden)
9. Kazakhstan (relegated; replaced by Japan in 2008)
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!