By the time the puck drops at next week’s Four Nations Cup there will be roughly 107 days, 21 hours and 20 minutes — give or take a few ticks of the clock — before the U.S. and Canada could potentially meet in the championship game at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Before any gold-medal matchup can take place, the two hockey powerhouses will get well acquainted as they will face off a potential eight times on the road to South Korea.
Playing each other so many times showcases the best that women’s hockey has to offer. It also throws fuel on an already heated rivalry.
That rivalry continues in the warm weather climes of Wesley Chapel and Tampa, Fla., the sites of the Four Nations Cup, which opens Tuesday (Nov. 7) and runs through Nov. 12 as part of The Time is Now Tour, presented by Toyota.
Joining the United States and Canada on the ice will be longtime international opponents Sweden and Finland.
Since the tournament’s inception in 1996, the United States has captured the title seven times (1997, 2003, 2008, 2011-12, 2015-16), finished second 12 times and third in the 2013 tournament.
If the rivalry holds true to form, the two North American rivals could find themselves facing off for the second time in five days in Sunday’s title game. But no one on the 24-member U.S. roster is looking that far ahead.
“It’s been about taking it one day at a time,” said forward Alex Carpenter, who is working to make her second U.S. Women’s Olympic Team.
Like the rest of her teammates, the focus over the past three and a half years has been on putting the sting of the last Olympics behind them and looking ahead to PyeongChang, South Korea, the site of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
The U.S. women had gold in their grasp in Sochi, leading Canada 3-1 with less than four minutes remaining before falling in overtime. The players have used that experience as powerful motivation every day during their residency program in south Florida and plan on carrying it with them on every step of the tour.
“We’ve learned so much over the past three years and there’s nothing we’d like to do more than win a gold medal for our fans and our country,” said defenseman Kacey Bellamy. “We don’t look too far ahead, we take it one day at a time. It’s a process and every day is another step further in achieving our goal.”
So far this season the teams have split their first two games, with the Americans coming out on top, 5-2, on Oct. 22 in Quebec City and the Canadians gaining the upper hand three days later in Boston with a 5-1 victory.
In addition to two potential matchups at the Four Nations, the two countries will meet twice more on The Time is Now Tour, in St. Paul, Minn., on Dec. 3 and San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 15. There are also a pair of exhibition games slated for north of the border.
While there are few secrets left between the two North American rivals, the U.S. players are confident that if they play their game that no one can beat them.
“We’d like to think that we know them pretty well and how to stop them and how to defend, and I’m sure they could say the same thing about us,” said veteran defenseman Megan Bozek.
“But when we play as a unit of six people, including the goalie, I truly don’t think anyone can beat us.”
|Tues., Nov. 7||Canada vs. Sweden||3:30 p.m.||Florida Hospital Center Ice||Wesley Chapel, Fla.||HockeyTV||Tickets Sold At The Door|
|USA vs. Finland||7 p.m.||Florida Hospital Center Ice||Wesley Chapel, Fla.||HockeyTV||Tickets Sold At The Door|
|Wed., Nov. 8||Finland vs. Sweden||3:30 p.m.||Florida Hospital Center Ice||Wesley Chapel, Fla.||HockeyTV||Tickets Sold At The Door|
|Canada vs. USA||7 p.m.||Florida Hospital Center Ice||Wesley Chapel, Fla.||HockeyTV||Sold Out|
|Fri., Nov. 10||Canada vs. Finland||3 p.m.||Florida Hospital Center Ice||Wesley Chapel, Fla.||HockeyTV||Tickets Sold At The Door|
|Sweden vs. USA||6:30 p.m.||Florida Hospital Center Ice||Wesley Chapel, Fla.||HockeyTV||Sold Out|
|Sun., Nov. 12||Third-Place Game||12 p.m.||AMALIE Arena||Tampa, Fla.||HockeyTV||AMALIE Arena Ticket Office
Via phone: 800-745-3000
|Championship Game||3:30 p.m.||AMALIE Arena||Tampa, Fla.||HockeyTV||AMALIE Arena Ticket Office
Via phone: 800-745-3000