The United States and Canada will meet in the women's gold-medal hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics after both teams easily overcame the opposition in the semifinals.
For the United States, it was seemingly a simple matter of showing up to play against Sweden. Canada used an early barrage to go up on Switzerland before it too coasted into the final.
For the forgetful readers—these two have quite the history, as Canada beat the U.S. in the gold-medal game in Vancouver back in 2010. Since 1998, when women's hockey was introduced to the Olympics, these two have met in the final four times.
|Semifinals||U.S. 6, Sweden 1|
|Semifinals||Canada 3, Switzerland 1|
|Gold-Medal Game||Canada vs. USA||Feb. 20||Noon|
|Bronze-Medal Game||Switzerland vs. Sweden||Feb, 20||7 a.m.|
U.S. Obliterates Sweden to Advance to Final
For a game that had a trip to the final on the line, this match was downright lopsided in every way imaginable, especially after Sweden looked competent in moving past Finland in the quarterfinals.
The U.S. secured its berth by upending Sweden 6-1. Even more eyebrow-raising was the shot differential, which favored the Americans by a 70-9 margin. American goalkeeper Jessie Vetter saved eight of the nine shots, with one finding the back of the net in the meaningless third period.
The Big Lead's Jason Lisk joked about the lopsided affair near its conclusion:
I'm still working out the kinks on the women's hockey win probability model, but right now I have USA at 110% to win.— Jason Lisk (@JasonLisk) February 17, 2014
Six different players scored goals for the United States in what appeared to be a final warm-up before the gold-medal game.
Canada Pounces on Switzerland Early
Canada meant business with a gold-medal-game berth on the line and put Switzerland in an insurmountable hole early thanks to three goals in the opening period.
Natalie Spooner scored the first two, while Melodie Daoust got in on the action 23 seconds after Spooner's last score.
Switzerland would respond with a goal in the second period from Jessica Lutz on a power play, but afterward the Canadian defense woke back up and applied the stranglehold.
As James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail illustrates, it was a much better contest for viewers than the rout that had preceded it:
This Canada-Switzerland women's game much needed after how badly the U.S. dominated Sweden in other semi. This is relatively competitive.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) February 17, 2014
Canada won the shots battle 48-22, with goalkeeper Shannon Szabados having a strong showing as she recorded 21 saves.
Gold Final Preview
Two historic rivals meet once more on Thursday in the gold-medal game, and one can look to the U.S. and Canada's preliminary match for an idea of what is set to occur.
In that 3-2 victory for Canada, superstar Meghan Agosta scored two goals in the third period. The United States had no answers, although U.S. captain Meghan Duggan tried to come up with one after the loss, via : of USA Today
"If we play them again, we just have to fine-tune some things."
Words are short in this rivalry. Bleacher Report's Dan Levy reminded readers that the preliminary match was the best of any so far:
The Canadian women have already beaten the Americans in the preliminary round in the most hard-fought game of the entire tournament. Can Team USA get revenge on Thursday?
Perhaps. But expect nothing short of a gritty battle between two evenly matched teams for the gold. The all-North American final will once again decide bragging rights and more between two neighbors for the next four years.