GANGNEUNG, South Korea – In the world of women’s hockey, there are no secrets when it comes to the rivalry between the United States and Canada. Their battles have been so tight over the years that they probably know what brand of shampoo each other uses.
After meeting eight times on the road to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, the curtain has long been pulled back and each side is well versed in their opponent’s tendencies and idiosyncrasies. They know their strengths and weaknesses, their go-to moves and how to push each other’s buttons.
That familiarity has bred contempt. Not that each team doesn’t respect the other’s talents and tenacity, but it would be Pollyannaish to ignore the fact that these teams really don’t like each other.
The #1 seed is on the line when the U.S. and Canada face off tonight
“Both of us want it, both of us are talented teams. We know what we need to do and it will come down to executing,” said U.S. Women’s Team captain Meghan Duggan, who is competing in her third Olympics and has faced Canada countless times in her career. “We love playing against them. They’re always great games that come down to the wire.”
The last time the North American rivals met on Olympic ice, the Canadians rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the final 3:29 to tie the game in regulation and then win in overtime to capture their fourth consecutive gold medal.
That was then, this is now.
Even though women’s hockey has taken great strides forward since the first tournament in 1998, these two teams remain the class of the competition and it will take a seismic event to upend the Olympic apple cart on the way to a gold-medal rematch.
Both teams enter the face-off circle sporting 2-0 records. The U.S. has outscored Finland and the Olympic Athletes of Russia by a combined score of 8-1, while Canada has a 9-1 goal advantage against similar opponents.
At stake is the No. 1 seed heading into the semifinals. The winner of tomorrow’s game will still draw a tough opponent from the two quarterfinal matchups. In the first, Switzerland will take on the Olympic Athletes of Russia while Finland faces off against a familiar foe in Sweden. The lowest seeded team left standing will draw the No. 1 seed in the semifinals.
“Technically, the game doesn’t mean anything, but we want to be the home team and we want to be the No. 1 seed,” said Monique Lamoureux-Morando, who has been reunited on a line with her twin sister Jocelyne.
“Any team on any given day in this tournament is good so we want to put ourselves in the best position to have success.”
Neither team puts much stock in what happened during the pre-Olympic tour, where the Canadians won five of six exhibition games they played, including the final four. The U.S. did beat them both times they met at the Four Nations tournament in November. But none of that matters now.
“In the last Olympics we won the last four heading into the tournament and look how that turned out,” Lamoureux said.
“That was two months ago and a lot has changed since then. Each team has made different roster changes. You can go 8-0 [in the pre-Olympic tour] and if you lose the game that matters then it really doesn’t matter.”
The U.S. has taken a one-game-at-a-time approach to the tournament, refusing to look beyond their next opponent. Now, that next opponent is the roadblock that continues to stand in their way of returning to the top of the podium for the first time in 20 years.
“We have not given much energy to Canada because it is definitely one game at a time,” said head coach Robb Stauber. “Now we know who we play in our next game. We know that opponent very well so we’re just going to play extremely hard and we’re going to try to duplicate some of the things that we did well tonight.”
While the game that ultimately matters is still eight days away, both teams know there’s more than just a No. 1 seed on the line when they meet tomorrow. When it comes to playing against Canada, every game is a true test of wills.
“Those are the games you really get up for. You don’t have to try and motivate yourself,” Lamoureux said. “It’s a huge rivalry and a huge test for us. But every game in the Olympics is special and you don’t need much motivation to get up for it.”
|Sun., Feb 11||Finland||Preliminary||W, 3-1||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Tues., Feb 13||Olympic Athletes From Russia||Preliminary||W, 5-0||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Thurs., Feb. 15||Canada||Preliminary||L, 1-2||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Mon., Feb. 19||Finland||Semifinals||W, 5-0||Gangneung Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Thurs., Feb. 22||Canada||Gold-Medal Game||1:10 p.m./11:10 p.m. (Feb. 21)||Gangneung Hockey Centre||NBCSN