Friday, April 5, 2013

Team USA women seem headed for world semi-final

Express Staff Writer

To no one’s surprise, the 23-player U.S. Women’s National Team  appears a shoo-in for a semi-final berth in the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship at Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

All the Americans need is a win over Switzerland on Friday, April 5 at 1:30 p.m. Mountain Time in the final U.S. game of the preliminary round to advance into Monday’s semi-final contest. The U.S. has never lost to Switzerland in six world meetings, outscoring the Swiss 65-5.

Hilary Knight, 23, of Sun Valley, this year’s Canadian Women’s Hockey League Most Valuable Player who starred on the league champion Boston Blades, is a member of the U.S. team coached for a third straight year by Katey Stone. Stone is head coach of the women's hockey team at Harvard University.

So far, eight games are in the books in the IIHF Women’s World Championship, being held for the 15th time since its inception in 1990. Ten-time world champion Canada, the defending champion, and four-time champ Team USA are the only teams to have won world championship tournaments.

Barring a huge upset, Canada and Team USA are headed for another showdown in the gold medal game scheduled for Tuesday, April 9 at 5:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

They’ve already played once in this tournament, Team Canada winning 3-2 in an overtime shootout Tuesday, April 2. That most recent Canada victory brought back painful memories to the Americans of their 5-4 overtime loss to Canada in the world gold medal game last April at Burlington, Vt.

On Tuesday, Team USA out-shot Canada 13-5 in the first period and grabbed an early 2-0 lead on goals by North Dakota’s Monique Lamoureux (power play) and Brianna Decker, who was the 2012 Patty Kazmaier award winner while playing for Knight’s University of Wisconsin Badgers team.

Team Canada rallied in front of a partisan crowd of 11,174 at Ottawa’s Scotiabank Place.

Outshooting the Americans 15-5 in the third, the Canadians scored twice on goals by Rebecca Johnston and Catherine Ward in the final eight minutes for a 2-2 tie after regulation. After a scoreless five-minute overtime period, Canada then won 3-2 in an overtime shootout—making two goals to Team USA’s one.

Knight shot first and scored for Team USA in the first round of three shooters. Canada’s Meghan Agosta-Marciano, the second shooter, made the score 1-1.

The decision went to a sudden-death second round of shooters. Canada’s next shooter was Jennifer Wakefield, 23, of Ontario. Wakefield didn’t shoot in the first round, but the former New Hampshire/Boston University skater beat U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter, 27, of Wisconsin for the eventual game winner.

Team Canada goaltender Shannon Szabados, 26, of Edmonton stopped Knight’s final chance to equalize for the Americans. Szabados was in the goal for the Canada’s gold medal win over the Americans in the 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver.

Vetter ended the game with 24 saves and Szabados 27.

Team USA and Canada have now played 20 times in world competition, the Americans (outscored 63-53) trailing with 5 wins, 8 losses, 5 overtime losses and 2 overtime wins.

Last year at worlds, Team USA trounced Canada 9-2 in the opening game, but Canada won on American soil in the final.

On Wednesday, Team USA needed a win over Finland to advance, and got it 4-2 using a four-goal first-period outburst. Scoring goals were Monique Lamoureux, Decker, Wisconsin’s Amanda Kessel (power play) and Jocelyne Lamoureux.

Team USA out-shot Finland 42-13 before 3,313 spectators at Scotiabank Place. Getting the win in the USA goal was 25-year-old Brianne McLaughlin of Sheffield. Ohio, who also blanked Finland 11-0 at last year’s world championships.

With an off day today, Thursday, here are the scores of the first two days, and the scheduled games for Friday:

( Tuesday, April 2: Czech Republic 3-2 over Sweden; Finland 2-1 over Switzerland; Russia 4-0 over Germany; and Canada 3-2 over Team USA.

( Wednesday, April 3: Russia 3-1 over Czech Republic; Team USA 4-2 over Finland; Sweden 3-2 over Germany; and Canada 13-0 over Switzerland with a 79-16 shooting advantage.

( Friday, April 5: Czech Republic vs. Germany; Team USA vs. Switzerland; Sweden vs. Russia; and Canada vs. Finland.

This year’s format calls for all four teams in Group A, which were the top four ranked teams from last year, advancing to the playoffs. The teams in Group A are Canada, Team USA, Switzerland and Finland. The Group B teams are Sweden, Russia, Germany and Czech Republic.

The top two teams in Group A after Friday’s conclusion of the preliminary round will advance to Monday’s semi-finals. The bottom two teams in Group A will play the top two teams in Group B in cross-over quarterfinals on Saturday, April 6.

The bronze medal and gold medal game are Tuesday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. respectively.

Fans have multiple ways to follow the U.S. Women's National Team at the 2013 IIHF Women's World Championship. FASTHockey has live streaming coverage of all Team USA games. Also, all can join in the conversation on Twitter by going to @USAHockey and using the hashtag #2013WWC.

NOTES—Team USA has won four gold medals and 10 silvers in the 14 previous IIHF Women's World Championships. The U.S. has won four of the last six world championships (2005, 2008, 2009, 2011)…..Prior to Wednesday’s 4-2 victory, Team USA had beaten the Finns 11-0 and 7-0 in the only two world championship meetings since 2008, when Finland blanked Team USA 1-0 in overtime. That is the only time in 13 meetings that Finland has defeated Team USA. In total, Team USA has outscored Finland 65-19 in world competition, and 34-1-2 overall with a 183-51 goals-against…..


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