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US and Canada win semifinals to set up 22nd gold-medal showdown at women's hockey championships

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LA Post: US and Canada win semifinals to set up 22nd gold-medal showdown at women's hockey championships
April 13, 2024
JOHN WAWROW - AP

UTICA, N.Y. (AP) — Not knowing her next opponent yet, Taylor Heise took the diplomatic approach in saying she didn’t have a preference who the United States would face in the women’s world hockey championship gold-medal game.

And yet, when offered the chance to say anything derogatory about Canada, Heise laughed and said, “nope” three times on Saturday before adding: “We’ll keep that to the ice if we need to.”

And it’s on the ice where one of global sports’ and women’s hockey’s fiercest and longest-running rivalries — U.S. versus Canada — will be settled yet again on Sunday, when the bordering nations meet for gold for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments since the championships were established in 1990.

The Canadians were far more vocal in looking forward to a rematch, especially a year after the Americans beat them 6-3 to win gold at the tournament held outside of Toronto. It’s not lost on the Canadians having a chance to return the favor with the championships being held in central New York.

“I think it would feel a little bit special considering they beat us last year on home soil,” Canadian assistant captain Blayre Turnbull said. “So yeah, I think, it’s a big game and it’s one that we’re ready for and one that we can’t wait to get started.”

The Americans advanced on Saturday with a 5-0 win over Finland, in an outing Laila Edwards scored a natural hat trick and Aerin Frankel stopped 15 shots to set a single-tournament record with her fourth shutout.

The Canadians followed with 4-0 win over Czechia, more widely known in English as the Czech Republic. Emily Clark and Jocelyne Larocque had a goal and assist each, and Ann-Renee Desbiens stopped nine shots for her second shutout of the tournament.

Desbiens, for one, hasn’t forgotten the 6-3 loss in last year’s final.

“You always want to beat them. Whether it’s a Rivalry Series, world championship, it doesn’t change,” Desbiens said. “Obviously, I remember last year, I remember what happened. And, we want this story to be different this year.”

In the meantime, Czech coach and former Canadian national team player Carla MacLeod made a point to emphasize how much the gap is beginning to close between the rest of the world and the sport’s two dominant North American teams.

“There was some animosity out there, and I take that as a compliment to Czech,” MacLeod said of an outing that featured several big hits and a shoving match that resulted in roughing penalties issued to Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin and Czechia’s Noemi Neubauerova in the third period. “If the Canadians and Americans are getting frustrated playing against us, we’re doing something right.”

In a tournament where the Czechs, Finns and Germany displayed signs of beginning to close the competitive gap, the one marquee matchup remains U.S.-Canada.

The final will be a rematch of a physical, fast-paced, end-to-end preliminary round outing on Monday, which the Americans won 1-0 on Kirsten Simms’ overtime goal.

Edwards joins Simms in being among the four U.S. players making their tournament debuts.

“She stepped up in a way that not a lot of people can. And I’m very proud of her,” said Heise, who set up Edwards’ final two goals. “I’m glad that she could prove that to herself. Because sometimes when you’re young and you get picked to a team like this, sometimes it takes a goal like that to prove to yourself that you’re here for a reason. But we all knew that before.”

The 6-foot-1 Edwards is from Cleveland and the first Black hockey player to make the U.S. national team roster. Coming off her sophomore season at Wisconsin, she is one of four Americans making their tournament debuts and now has five goals to share the tournament lead with teammate Alex Carpenter.

“It’s pretty good, I’d say,” Edwards said of her growing confidence. “Just confident in the team. So that always helps with my individual confidence. When our team’s rolling and everyone’s playing at their best and sharing the puck and just doing all sorts of things really helps with my confidence.”

Hannah Bilka and Savannah Harmon also scored for the Americans, who kept their perfect run intact in having appeared in every world championship final since the tournament was established in 1990.

The two women’s hockey global powers have met in 21 of 22 world tournament finals, with the only exception 2019, when host Finland beat Canada in the semis before losing to the U.S. in a 2-1 shootout.

The Americans have won 10 world gold medals to Canada’s 12. The U.S. is 18-17 overall against Canada in tournament play, with both teams scoring 98 goals against. Canada, meantime, has the edge in Olympic play in having won five gold medals to the Americans’ two.

___

AP Women’s Hockey: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-hockey

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