Canada and U.S. Set Up Another Gold Medal Rematch

U.S. and Canada assured they would meet in yet another international tournament final with wins Saturday at the Four Nations Cup, although Sweden made the preliminary round less of formality than usual for both teams this past week. The U.S. beat Sweden 6-3, and Canada triumphed over Finland by a 4-1 margin.

Sweden, who played Canada even for nearly three periods on Wednesday night, held a 2-1 lead deep in the second period on Saturday against the United States, thanks to power play goals set up by Minnesota-Duluth alum Maria Rooth, who was the MVP of the inaugural Frozen Four in 2001.

But a power play goal by Minnesota senior Kelly Stephens from recent Harvard grad Angela Ruggiero tied the game 2-2 a few minutes later, and a Ruggiero from Stephens power play goal gave the U.S. a 3-2 lead. The Swedes tied it 3-3 on a 5-on-3 shortly thereafter, but the U.S. came through in the end with three consecutive goals. The first came from Katie King five-holing Sweden’s Kim Martin. Minnesota junior Krissy Wendell, who scored the first U.S. goal, finished with a hat trick after scoring two more goals to ice the game in the final minutes.

For the third period, the U.S. outshot the Swedes 14-1 and outscored them 4-1. The line of Minnesota students Wendell, Stephens and Natalie Darwitz combined for five of the USA’s six goals in the game. Recent Brown grad Pam Dreyer earned the win in net, with 11 saves.

In the 4-1 Canada win over Finland, the Canadians came out of the gates flying, and scored the all important first goal at the eight minute mark of the first period. Recent Dartmouth grad Correne Bredin took a beautiful feed from recent St. Lawrence grad Gina Kingsbury that sent her in all alone against the Finnish netminder, and slipped one through her five hole. Canada followed that up with a second goal less than two minutes later when Harvard freshman Sarah Vaillancourt pounced on a rebound to make it 2-0 after one period.

Canada extended its lead to 3-0 when 17-year old Meghan Agosta converted on a feed from Dartmouth junior Katie Weatherston on the power play. The Finns did not quit as they replied at the four minute mark on a weird bounce in front of Canadian goalie, Sami Jo Small. Terhi Mertanen got credit for the goal and brought the Finns to within one. But that was as close as they would get as Team Canada scored its second power play goal of the period. Wisconsin defenseman Carla MacLeod shelved a rocket from the point past UMD sophomore Anna-Kaisa Piiroinen, in net for Finland.

Both teams played a tight checking game in the third, limiting the offensive opportunities at both ends. Finland had three power play chances, but were not able to generate any good scoring chances. Canada sat back a little and protected its lead and held on for a 4-1 victory. The shots were very close as Canada had a slight edge 23-22.

Finland and Sweden will play for the Bronze medal at 11:30 a.m. Sunday in Lake Placid. While the Swedes have been better at challenging Canada and the U.S. in recent tournaments, they have not separated themselves head-to-head from their Scandinavian rivals.

The U.S. and Canada will play in the gold medal final at 2:30 p.m. Canada will be looking to avenge a defeat from last year’s Four Nations final, in which Cammi Granato delivered the only goal in a 12-round deciding shootout. The win was the first for the U.S. over Canada in a major international final since the 1998 Olympics.