Canada going for gold
Canada going for gold
Flu-ridden Swedes put up brave fight in 6-2 loss
The results set up familiar medal matchups tomorrow as the North Americans will play in their tenth straight gold-medal game, in Zlin, while Sweden and Russia will fight for bronze, in Prerov.
The Americans won last year, 3-2 in overtime, in St. Catharines, Ontario, while Sweden beat Russia, 2-1, for bronze last year.
"We're pleased with the end result," said Canada's coach Troy Ryan, "but not necessarily the process to getting there. We've played better, and I know we can play better tomorrow. We came out a little flat. We took some penalties we shouldn't have. But we came here to play for a gold medal, and now we have that opportunity."
But for Sweden the story today was one of terrible luck. Four players had to be scratched from the game because of the flu. Absent were Celine Tedenby, Ethel Wilhelmsson, Wilma Germundsson Wang, and Elin Olovsson. Add to that the injured Ida Press was unavilable, and eight minutes into the game Fia Larsson had to be taken to hospital after a heavy hit left her with a possible concussion.
That left coach Ylva Lindberg with exactly nine forwards and six defencemen to play aginst an opponent it had never beaten.
"They're at the hotel, sick," Lindberg said of her short bench. "We'll see tomorrow how many players we'll have for the bronze game. It's tough. We knew we'd need our best skating effort to win today, but we can only ask so much from the players who were able to play."
"We were a little slow to start, but we picked it up, and that's the most important thing," said Shirley, one of the best skaters you'll ever see at the U18 level.
The first period saw an exchange of power plays that favoured Sweden in number and Canada in execution. After killing off an early disadvantage, Canada connected with its own five-on-four. Brooke Hobson’s wrist shot from the high slot found the top corner over Sofia Reideborn’s shoulder.
Sweden, however, failed to convert on a major penalty to Amy Potomak. She hit Fia Larsson hard into the boards in the Sweden end and was handed a charging major and game misconduct.
Canada’s penalty killers, however, did a masterful job pressuring the Swedes and didn’t give up much in the way of a good scoring chance.
Canada took control early in the second. Fillier came down the left wing and fired a quick shot to the short side that fooled Reideborn at 6:13. Just two and a half minutes later, Shirley scored to make it 3-0, and the undermanned Swedes looked as though they were out of it.
"I didn't see the puck, but it went off my skate," Shirley said. "It's a pretty lucky one, but nice to get. It was my first one."
Not so fast. Sweden got on the board at 9:59 on a bit of a lucky play of its own. A shot came out the back side of goalie Edith D’Astous-Moreau and the skittered through the crease. Defenceman Shelby Wood tried to clear it but ended up knocking it into her own goal. Josefin Bouveng got credit.
Late in the period the Swedes made things interesting, scoring on the power play. Paula Bergstrom’s point shot found its way through traffic, deflecting and spinning until it finally dribbled in. All of a sudden it was a 3-2 game.
"I'm very proud of the team," Lindberg said. "For two periods at least we were in the game and gave ourselves a chance. But we need to do more to beat Canada."
Indeed, Canada got the backbreaker six minutes into the third when Shirley got her second of the night, this time knocking in a rebound on a power play. Canada added two empty-netters late in to make the score look a little worse for Sweden than it was.
And now, Canada and the U.S. fight for gold...again.
"It's a great rivalry, for sure," Shirley said. "We know we're going to have to take our game up another level from the last time we played [a 1-0 overtime win]."
"It feels good to be playing for a medal tomorrow," Lindberg finished. "We can be happy with our accomplishments so far."
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