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February 19, 2014
Canada vs USA - Women's Gold Medal Preview
The 2014 Sochi Gold Medal women's hockey game sees the young and the relentless United States take on a veteran Canadian team that is the three time reigning Olympic champions.
To win a fourth straight Olympic gold medal, the Canadian women's hockey team must leverage its big-game experience up front to overcome the superior speed of the United States.
Canada's dozen forwards have a combined 18 previous appearances at the Winter Olympics among them compared to seven among the American forwards. Three-time gold medallists Caroline Ouellette, Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford, as well as third-time Olympians Meghan Agosta-Marciano and Gillian Apps lead the way for Canada.
Coach Kevin Dineen will rely heavily on his leadership group.
"There's a lot of people in that locker-room that have a pretty special jewellery collection."
But the hungry Americans are primed to reclaim Olympic gold - something they have not done since 1998.
Canada may have won the round robin showdown a week ago, but the U.S. beat Canada in four of the last five world championship finals. The last title match came in Ottawa last year, before a sold out stadium of Canadian fans. Many of today's Olympians were on that team, and that should help fill any experience gap.
While Canada holds a heavy experience advantage up front, they do not on the blue line. In fact Catherine Ward and Meaghan Mikkelson are the only two defenders among the six who played in Vancouver, and Mikkelson was unable to play in the game vs. Switzerland for unknown reasons. She will be in the lineup against the Americans, but it is the blue line that the Americans will look to exploit with their speed.
The line of Amanda Kessell, younger sister of Maple Leafs forward Phil, Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne is the most impressive line in women's hockey today and are lethal with the puck. They also the key to the red hot power play, which operates at 35% compared to Canada's 20%
Expect Jessie Vetter to play in net for the Americans. She was a constant in those four world championships is arguably the best female goalie in North America right now.
Canada's goaltender of choice remains a mystery. Whether Dineen chooses Charline Labonte, who got the win against USA in the round robin, or Shannon Szabados, he will get strong goaltending.
Whatever happens on Thursday will go down as another epic chapter in the game's most fierce rivalry.
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