Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Canada's Golden Gals celebrate again

For the most part, 15,003 fans in Winnipeg went home happy on Tuesday night. Canada's women's hockey team took on an old and familiar nemesis and for the eighth time in ten World Championship match ups took home the gold.

With a 5-1 victory, the Canadian ladies once again can claim bragging rights to women's hockey around the world, following an impressive march to the title match last night.

Spiked by a bit of controversy, the game like many others of past history provided for many of the thrills and emotions that people have come to expect when Canada and the USA get together on a sheet of ice.

The two long time rivals still provide the top talents in the women's game though there are rumblings from Europe of a breakthrough in the sport. But it would seem to still be a few years short of a serious challenge to the North Americans.

The Globe and Mails, Beverley Smith provided a full account of Tuesday's successful night of hockey, another title for Hockey Canada to add to its impressive women's resume.

Canada cruises to world championship
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

April 11, 2007

WINNIPEG — It was a familiar result, but one that Canada never gets tired of.

Team Canada played the United States for the 10th consecutive time in the women's world championship final last night, and just as they had done eight times before, they struck gold.
The Canadians' 5-1 victory set off a major celebration from the sellout Winnipeg crowd and gained a measure of revenge for a shootout loss to the U.S. team two years ago.

After the win, the Canadian huddled around 41-year-old veteran Danielle Goyette, who scored one of last night's goals last night. In the crowd, signs were held up, urging: "Goyette - 2010" and her teammates gave her the Cup to hold

Team Canada pose with the championship trophy after defeating Team USA 5-1 to win the gold medal game at the Women's World Hockey Championships in Winnipeg. (Adrian Wyld/CP)
Goyette doesn't know if she will continue to 2010, or even another year.

"I didn't expect that at the end, when they gave me the Cup," Goyette said afterward. "I was kind of surprised. Maybe they think it's going to be my last one. It might be. I don't know. But it was pretty nice for me to lift the Cup, because I've never been able to lift it when we get it. But to be able to do that was pretty special."

Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser, voted MVP of the tournament admitted: "These games can be tight. Nobody wants to give up anything. Second period, we got a bit of a break on the goal there and everybody relaxed and we got rolling. Kim St. Pierre was excellent in the net. They got a post in the first period, which could have turned it the other way. Sometimes you create your own luck."

After a goalless first period, Jennifer Botterill struck 58 seconds into the second, firing a shot from an extreme angle into the side of the net. Caroline Ouellette and Carla MacLeod picked up assists.

The 15,003 fans in the record crowd erupted, celebrating the fact that Botterill is one of their own, having been born in Winnipeg.

Head coach Mel Davidson juggled her lines as the Canadian team fought to extend the lead. Jayna Hefford, so deadly at the Four Nations Cup in Kitchener, Ont., last November, took a pass from Vicky Sunohara and shoved it into the corner of the net to give Canada a 2-0 advantage.

Officials couldn't determine whether the puck had gone over the goal line or whether U.S.
netminder Chanda Gunn had tucked it safely under her arm. After a review, officials allowed the goal, which came at 11:33 of the second period.

Wickenheiser took four shots on goal in the first and second periods before striking at 16:27 of the middle period. She took a pass from defenceman Delaney Collins and stickhandled her way to the goal. Wickenheiser galloped off as if she had won the Kentucky Derby, while the U.S. defencemen stood helpless.

Goyette, one of the leading scorers in the tournament, made the score 4-0, with assists from Sarah Vaillancourt and Gillian Apps.

Vaillancourt, playing in only her second world championship, scored an unassisted goal at 17:16 of the final period.

Canadian goalie St. Pierre surrendered the only U.S. goal to Krissy Wendell to make the score 4-1 at 10:08 of the third period.

A total attendance of 120,801 watched the Canadians march to victory all week, outstripping the previous record of 90,000, set three years ago at the world championship in Halifax. Organizers had hoped 100,000 tickets would be sold.

The top 10 ticket sales for International Ice Hockey Federation women's hockey are held by Canadian arenas. That doesn't count a crowd of 18,000 that watched Canada play the United States in an exhibition game in the Saddledome in Calgary in 1998.

After the Canada-Finland game on Monday, Davidson made the decision to put Kim St. Pierre in the net for the gold-medal game and leave Charline Labonte as the backup.

"Both of them could be in the nets tonight," Davidson said. "I think that's a tribute to our goaltenders in terms of their professionalism. Charly was incredibly disappointed. We all know that she'll be there supporting. She was today and real positive around the players. It's a tough position to play in our country."

Davidson said she based her decision on a combination of factors. "You go with who you feel can get the job done and that's what we do," she said.

"On any given day, any given one can walk away with the spot. We've got a lot of great goaltenders. It'll be interesting over the next three years to see what happens."

Both goalies were first out on the ice for the warm-up. When it was over, they went through their patented ritual. Labonte kicked St. Pierre's shin pads, one at a time. St. Pierre returned the gesture. The rest of the team did, too.

"I just stand there and wait until everybody has gone by," St. Pierre said. "It's my way of doing things. I just really gets you in the game and helps you to keep your focus."

U.S. coach Mark Johnson said he's excited by the strong young talent on his team, only half of which played at the gold-medal game in 2005, when the Americans defeated the Canadians.
"You don't know when you've had a transition like we've had since [the Turin Olympics,], what's going to happen and how the younger players are going to mix in and what they'll make from a contribution standpoint," he said.

"Our future looks good, Our young players are certainly going to bring us a bright spot and you hope to continue to develop that in the next two, three, four years.

"I think any time in the next few years when Canada plays the United States, make sure you get a ticket. It's going to be a pretty good night. And it could go either way."

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