Friday, February 26, 2010

Canadian Women use 2 early goals to win 3rd straight Gold Medal

Canadian Olympic Rookie Marie-Philip Poulin used 2 goals in the first 10 minutes to help the Canadians win their 3rd straight Olympic Women's Gold Medal over the U.S.A. and by doing so, have overtaken the U.S.A. for the top spot in the Women's World Rankings.

After the 2 goals were scored in the first 10 minutes, Goalie Shannon Szabados used a great performance by stopping all 28 U.S.A. shots to keep the Americans off the scoreboard as Canadian domination of this tournament since 2002. The U.S.A.'S only Women's Gold came in the inaugural tournament back in 1998.

In a game that had the physicality and the exicment of the Men's Prelim Round Game last weekend, the best Women's Teams in the World didn't disappointment the fans of both sides to give the game that fans of the U.S.A. and Canada deserve for the Gold Medal.

However, as we end another Women's Olympic Tournament. What should the U.S.A and Canada when it comes down to helping teams from around the world improve their game to make this tournament more competitive.

Do these players have an obligation to help young girls take up the sport around the world, or is that the responsibility of their own national team federations to help them out to make this tournament more competitive in the near future in both the Women's World Championship and the Olympics?

One thing that could help is the recent creation of the World Junior Women's Championship where this can help increase the number of players, especially at the younger age groups where you have very few Major College Teams and no Junior Leagues or teams at all.

Even though the tournament has only been around for 2 years, they has been some success already. The Czech Republic was able to medal at the first event in 2008 and then got back to the Bronze Medal Game back last year where they lost to Sweden is a very close game.

Also some of the lower seeded games have been greatly competitive such as all 4 of the placement games being 1 goal games last year, including 3 of them going to OT, so hopefully this can be a huge step forward for the Women's Game, especially for the younger players looking to play at the Olympics and WWC.

Also last year was the first year to include a Division 1 Tournament with the winner getting promoted to this year's tournament. This is good news because it was recommended that the IIHF wait 3 years before adding a Division 1 Tournament for new teams to have a shot at competing and getting promoted to the Main Event which will be in Chicago this season in March.

Canada VS. U.S.A. Women's Gold Medal Game Photos:

Canada VS. U.S.A. Women's Gold Medal Game Summary:

From Andrew Ponieks of the International Ice Hockey Federation Website:

Marie-Phillip Poulin scored two first-period goals to lead Canada to a 3rd straight Olympic Gold Medal in a 2-0 win over the United States. Shannon Szabados was nothing short of brilliant in goal for the Canadians, stopped all 28 shots.

"We trusted in ourselves," said veteran forward Jennifer Botterill. "Steve Yzerman came and spoke to us before the game, and that was one of the biggest pieces of advice: to trust yourself. We were excited, but had confidence all the preparation we did."

Coming into this game, Szabados had exactly two games of top-level experience under her belt, both here in Vancouver over the last two weeks. The game was watched by Wayne Gretzky and Prime Minister Stephen Harper as well as a full complement of both the Men's and Women's Teams from Canada and the U.S.A.

"I'm proud and very honored to be Canadian," said Meghan Agosta, the MVP of these Olympics. "To represent your country in Canada is honor and of itself. We had no doubt that if we played hard and worked together that we would be successful."

Coach Melody Davidson gave Szabados the surprise start despite many years of experience in Kim St. Pierre resume. Six minutes into the game, Szabados proved her worth in the first period-but not the last-time, making a huge glove save and ripped a wrist shot to the glove side, the game's first good scoring chance.

"Team Canada's a great team," said American Hilary Knight. "It just shows their perseverance. We had tons of opportunities tonight and couldn't capitalize. Hats off to Szabados for doing a great job. The puck didn't bounce our way, but she did a great job."

Indeed, while Canada's men's had been scrutinized for the intense pressure they had felt, the women, with mostly easy games so far, hadn't faced any. But they started this game nervously and tentatively. Midway through the period skated their way into a more confident team, drawing a couple of penalties but unable to capitalize.

Then it was Canada that took the quick penalties, creating a five-on-three for the Americans for 38 seconds. Szabados was sensational, and Wickenheiser made an heroic sliding block of a hard shot to keep the U.S.A. at bay. Soon after the team were playing at full strength, Canada struck. Jennifier Botterill took a loose puck along the left boards and swept a pass to Poulin in the slot. Poulin ripped a one timer over the glove of Jessie Vetter at 13:05.

Poulin got her second goal of the period at 16:50. This came off a faceoff deep in the U.S.A. end to the left of Vetter. She won a draw to winger Meghan Agosta. but the weak backhander was easily blocked. The puck came back right back to Poulin, however, and she drilled a low shot to the glove shot which Vetter couldn't reach.

"Poulin's just a little sniper," said Botterill. "You try to get her the puck, and she gets off some good shots."

It was a fast and furious period marked by a great scoring chances. The big difference was Szabados at one end and Canada's ability to nail its chances at the other. The Americans came out as a determined group and spent most of the first 90 seconds of the 2nd period in Canada's end, generating some good chances but not able to beat Szabados.

Canada then incurred two delay of game penalties within a span of 23 seconds, but the penalty killers during the 1:38 two man advantage was amazing. They blocked passing lanes, got sticks and bodies in the way of shots, and had Szabados as a surperb last line of defense.

"Szabados played great", said Lamoureux. "She stole the game for us." We had two 5-on-3's and we just couldn't bury the puck. They had blocked a lot of shots. We had rebounds to capitalize and made some great saves, I tip my hat to her. She played awesome."

The rest of the period featured spectacularly exciting, and end-to-end action. Both goalies had several close calls, the glove of Szabados often made the difference. Both teams also had their chances with the man advantage, and nearly the end of the period each team had a power play which has spent almost entirely in the offense zone. But, after 40 heart-pounding minutes, Poulin's two goals were still the only ones on record.

Canada's outlet passing and poise under pressure were impressive, and the team was able to contain the speed of the Americans for the most part, keeping their fleet-of-foot forwards on the outside. The Americans still generated their fair share of chances, and with a 2-0 lead with 20 minutes to play (or more), this game's results was by no means secure.

It was clear from the drop of the puck to start the 3rd period that Canada wasn't about to gamble, knowing that the Americans had to start taking chances. Szabados made another sensational save near the seven minute marks. The Canadian Defense made a dangerous clearing right through its own crease and the puck bounced off Monique Lamoureux's skate and headed right between the legs of the goalie until she squeezed the pads together.

The pace never let up, but the Canadians played brilliant defense and maintained their composure until the final horn when Canada Hockey Place erupted into a deafening moment of joy. Canada has won gold for the 3rd straight Olympic Games. While the U.S.A. has won Silver for the 2nd time (2002).

"This is definitely my last Olympic Games." Becky Kellar said, "and this is a good way to go out. It felt like a dream to be out there with that many people in the stands."

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