Canada will go back to the drawing board as they prepare for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics after finishing with another silver medal at the IIHF Women’s World Championship.
“This one hurts right now for sure. It’s going to be a tough one to come back from, but it’s more motivation for us,” said Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin, after their fourth consecutive gold medal loss to the U.S. at the worlds.
Canadian coach Laura Schuler said in the opening preliminary game against the U.S. where they were shutout 2-0 that the team didn’t play with the same passion as their American counterparts and they needed to get more pucks to the net.
Offence was something the team seemingly struggled with throughout the tournament. At the 2016 world championship, where Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the final, they produced 20 goals over the five games. In 2017, they had 17 goals. However, that came with a shocking 1-2 record through the preliminary rounds after following up a shut out at the hands of the U.S. with a 4-3 loss to Finland. The latter matchup’s outcome was a boon for Finland, who said from the outset this was one of their strongest teams ever, as it was the first time they have ever beaten Canada.
It gave the Canadians a wake up call, as they then shut out Russia 8-0 and in a re-match with Finland won 4-0.
“From the start of the tournament we went through a lot of adversity and I’m really happy with the way we came out and stuck together,” said Poulin following the gold medal loss.
It was just in December the U.S. and Canada battled in a two-game exhibition series. It looked as though Canada had reason to be very confident heading into the women’s worlds taking both games over the U.S.
Rebecca Johnston was a force, scoring four goals in two games.
However, there were a few changes to the roster for the world championship. Forwards Jillian Saulnier, Sophie Shirley and Amy Potomak were absent from the world’s squad, as was defenceman and Micah Hart. Canada instead looked to forwards Laura Stacey, Bailey Bram and Sarah Davis, and Renata Fast on D.
It didn’t help that Canada’s usual suspects among the scoring leaders weren’t producing as much at the world championship. Rebecca Johnston, Natalie Spooner, Jennifer Wakefield, Poulin and Brianne Jenner were all in the top-20 last year. This time around only Poulin, Johnston and Jenner could be found on that list.
The U.S. had their own story to tell. After losing the two games in December, they were out to prove something. Add to that the fight they won with USA Hockey for equal rights putting them back on the ice just days before the tournament that they had announced just weeks before that they would boycott unless something changed. Of course, winning on home soil was also on the bucket list of the veterans, as it was something that hadn’t been done by the U.S. national team despite having hosted the tournament several times.
“Our goal was to come in on day one and be better by the end and I think we accomplished that, not just because of a win but we played really, really hard,” said Robb Stauber, head coach of the 2017 U.S. Women’s National Team. “I’m so proud of this team. It’s an unbelievable feeling to have been able to win a gold medal here tonight in front of our amazing fans.”
While the U.S. has held the upper-hand in major tournaments since the 2014 Olympics, their raw talent and speed is what seems to beat the Canadians. Almost all of these grudge matches have been won by just one goal.
The Canadians have won the last four Olympic gold medals and it could be because of the intense preparation while centralized that they have leading up to the Games, giving them time to develop chemistry and tighter systems.
U.S. player Brianna Decker was given the tournament Most Valuable Player award. She was tied in the scoring lead with teammate Kendall Coyne — each recording 12 points in five games.
In the bronze medal world championship game, Finnish goaltender Noora Raty turned aside 11 shots to earn a shutout and help her team defeat Germany 8-0. Fourth place is the highest finish for the German squad at this tournament.
Finland defender Jenni Hiirikoski earned Best Defenceman of the tournament and Raty Best Goaltender.
Camps and Centralization
Hockey Canada invited 83 to the national women’s program strength and conditioning camp taking place May 3 to 7 in Hamilton, Ont.
That mix includes 30 development players and 50 under-18 women to focus entirely on off-ice sessions.
As the national team prepares for Olympic centralization, a smaller, targeted group of developed team-aged players (born 1996-1999) have been invited to the strength and conditioning camp.
The U.S. women’s national team have already announced the 42 players who are invited to their Olympic team selection camp which runs until May 4. The invitees include all 23-players who were part of the women’s world gold medal roster and 14 from the 2014 silver medal winning Olympic team. Players who are selected to the centralized team are expected to be named at the conclusion of the camp.
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