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For the fourth time in the five Olympics Games since women’s ice hockey was added to the Games, bitter rivals Canada and the United States will play for gold Thursday at noon.
Canada has won the last three Olympic gold medals in women’s ice hockey and enters Thursday’s game against the Americans as slight favorites. The teams met in the final game of the preliminary round where Canada defeated the United States 3-2. The American loss is the only loss for either team in these Olympic Games.
The United States opened the tournament with an impressive 3-1 win against a solid Finnish team, before blowing out eventual bronze-medalist Switzerland 9-0. The preliminary round ended with the 3-2 to Canada. The Americans advanced to the gold medal game with a dominating 6-1 win over Sweden in the semifinals, in which the Americans outshot the Swedes by an astounding 70-9 margin. The American player to watch in the game is going to be Hilary Knight. The 24 year old University of Wisconsin product stands out from her fellow teammates for providing the most physical presence. While most of her team relies on its speed and elusiveness, Knight brings a presence to the ice that really makes her dominate in all three zones.
The Canadian women are riding an 18-game Olympic winning streaking, having not lost a game in the Olympics since the inaugural women’s gold medal game in Nagano in 1998 to the Americans. They opened this year’s Games with a 5-0 win over the Swiss and a 3-0 win over Finland, before the 3-2 victory over the Americans. The Canadians were faced with a rematch against Switzerland in the semifinals, where the Canadians again came out victorious to the tune of 3-1. Canada’s player to watch will be Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored both goals for Canada against these same Americans as an 18 year old in the team’s 2-0 gold medal game victory in 2010. Look for her to pace the offense for this physical Canadian team on Thursday. I expect some déjà vu in today’s game from the preliminary game, and I expect Canada will pull off another 3-2 win over the United States.