The final stage is set for Friday evening’s Gold Medal matchup in Plymouth, Michigan. The US Women’s National Hockey Team will faceoff against the Canadian Women’s National Hockey Team in a rematch of last week’s tilt in the preliminary round. Canada will look to exact revenge on the Americans for the 2-0 shutout one week ago.
After losing the first two games in the prelims, Team Canada bested Russia 8-0 to sneak into second place in Group A. Like Team USA, Canada earned a bye and headed straight into the semifinals to defeat Finland 4-0.
While Canada has not given up a goal in the last two games, the real test will be against USA in the finals. The USWNHT remains undefeated in the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship heading into the Gold medal game. USA has only let up three goals in the last week, all to Finland.
Marie-Philip Poulin, Canada’s captain, leads her squad with six points (two goals, four assists). Rebecca Johnston trails her captain in points by one assist.
On the other hand, one American, Monique Lamoureux, is tied with Poulin for points and four members of Team USA have more points. Brianna Decker has more assists than Poulin with seven. Decker also has three goals thus far. Kendall Coyne has nine points, while Hilary Knight and Amanda Kessel each have seven. As I previously pointed out earlier in the week, Team USA has done a terrific job of crashing the net, finding rebounds, and getting quality chances below the hash marks. Eight of the eleven goals scored against Germany followed the same trend.
Special teams also continue to be a huge factor is the success of Team USA thus far. The already dangerous powerplay has upgraded to a lethal 37.5%. Team USA remains flawless on the penalty kill while also remaining the most disciplined squad in the eight-team competition.
Canada is ranked third on the power play (23.53%) and right behind Team USA on the kill (92.86%).
Each squad has a goaltender with two shutouts. For Team USA, Nicole Hensley has not given up a single goal in the two games she has appeared in. For Canada, Shannon Szabados has posted her two shutouts along with a 0.67 goals against average and .971 save percentage.
USA has gotten the best of Canada at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in the last seven games in a row. The last time Canada defeated the United States dates back to 2013, a 3-2 shootout victory in the preliminary round. In the last ten meetings between the two, USA has won eight in regulation, lost once in overtime (2012 Gold medal game), and lost once in a shootout, as just mentioned.
I do not think anyone is surprised to see the top two teams in the world facing each other again for the championship game. But given the overall play of both squads in previous games in the tournament, the distance between the first- and second-ranked squads is still pretty significant. That is a testament to just how good the USWNHT is today and how hard the American women have worked to stay on top.
The Canadian women will have to do all they can to keep USA from getting in close by clearing any and all rebounds from the crease by gaining position below the dots, especially surrounding the crease. But most importantly, Canada must remain disciplined. Giving Team USA even one power play opportunity could prove to be fatal.
Will Team USA go undefeated and capture Gold at the 2017 Women’s World Championship? Will the storybook saga of USA Hockey close this chapter on a positive note with a win over Canada? Or will Canada upset the Americans on their home turf? Tune into NHL Network or live stream the game on NHL.com tonight at 7:30 EST!