BEIJING (AP) – Captain Hillary Knight’s American aide calls it a “beautiful rivalry.” Canadian captain Marie-Philippe Poulin sums it up as “very fun”.
Do not deceive yourself with kindness.
One of the toughest and longest fights in international sports will be held for the second time at the Beijing Olympics, and Thursday’s meeting between the United States and Canada will determine who will go home with the gold.
“These are the games we live for,” said US captain Kendall Coyne Schofield after his 4-1 victory in the semi-final over Finland. “Everyone has been so resilient through a pandemic with ups and downs, cancellations, postponements and finding ways to train, and that’s it for now. We are going to empty the tanks, and that’s why we came here. “
The U.S. is the reigning Olympic champion after defeating Canada 3-2 in the bullets at the 2018 PyeongChang Games.
The Canadians are considered favorites this time after reaching a 6-0 record and beating opponents 54-8, including a 4-2 victory over the US in the group stage.
Canada also had an advantage over its cross-border rivals as Pulin scored a gold-winning goal in overtime 3-2 over the U.S. at the World Cup in August, ending a series of Americans with five titles in the tournament. Canada has scored 5-1-1 in the last seven meetings against the US since.
Overall at the Olympics, which added women’s hockey in 1988, Canada has a 6-3 against the U.S., four gold medals to two Americans.
Apart from successes, the long memory of 2018 is growing.
“Honestly, it was very inconspicuous for us to lose in the bullets, because there was no feeling that you lost in the game,” said Canadian forward Sarah Nurse, who leads the tournament with 16 points with four goals and 12 assists. “It felt like it was an unfinished business. So entering this game with gold medals, no matter who we play for, we are here to finish the job and win the hockey match. ”
The nurse spoke after the semi-final victory over Switzerland with a score of 10-3 and before knowing who Canada will meet.
It is only appropriate that this is the United States, where the two countries meet for the sixth time in the seven Olympic finals. The exception was 2006, when Canada won the final against Sweden, which beat the United States in the semifinals.
Thursday’s game will be the fourth time the United States and Canada have met twice in the same Olympic tournament. In the first two cases, both times were won by the Americans (Nagano 1998) and the Canadians (2014 Sochi). In 2018, the US won the title after losing to Canada 2-1 in the group stage.
The challenge for the Americans is a relentlessly dynamic, fast-paced transition attack by Canada, which scored five times in the first 3:24 period against Switzerland, setting an Olympic record for the fastest five goals. Against the Americans Canada overcame a 2-1 deficit, scoring three times in 5:25.
Swiss coach Colin Mueller said the Canadians’ four-row ride is dizzying because it is difficult for rivals to change the line.
“They’re just so resilient,” Mueller said, blowing into the mask in fear. “Like, if you told me who their best player is, I don’t even know, really. I look at their lineup before the game and think, “Well, what do you want to do?”
U.S. coach Joel Johnson believes his team can compete, in part because it has yet to play in its best game.
“When we last played with them, I thought we were pretty good, but we didn’t create great enough opportunities to score,” Johnson said.
The chances of finishing were a challenge for the US, which ranks fifth out of 10 teams in efficiency with 28 goals with 334 shots leading the tournament. The Americans also lack the center-top Brian Decker, who broke her left leg in the opening tournament.
“I feel very good about how we are fighting Canada,” Johnson said. “I think if we can create a few more scoring chances and play, then hopefully it will be our best game.”
Americans won’t go into detail, but they have a few grievances that need to be extinguished. Obviously, when American players mention that the pre-Olympic competitions of the two countries out of nine games were abruptly canceled when three games remained due to Canada’s COVID-19 concerns.
The Americans are mistaken in that they were preparing for a game on home ice in Minnesota when about 11,000 tickets were sold, but the Canadians refused at the last minute after Emily Clark gave a positive result.
And members of the U.S. national team shook their heads over the drama Canada created when it refused to go out on the ice for its preliminary round game against the Russians because the results of their opponent’s analysis at COVID-19 were not available. The start of the game was postponed for an hour and threatened with postponement before the International Ice Hockey Federation reached a compromise to allow teams to wear masks.
This is not how the Americans coped with things, without problems with the game – and beating the Russians 5-0 – a day after the ROC player received a positive result.
Every remark in this rivalry is taken personally, each side paying close attention to what the other is doing.
“What do you want me to say?” Knight asked if he mentioned the prospect of facing Canada again. “It gets the best and the worst of us both at the same time.”
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