Olympic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal: Team Canada an underdog vs. Team USA

Frank Doyle | Tue. Feb 18 2014, 12:02 pm

Team Canada may have gotten the better of Team USA in the preliminary round of the women’s hockey tournament at the Sochi Olympics, but they’ll have odds stacked against them in Thursday’s gold medal game.

Sports Interaction opened Team Canada as a +113 underdog against the US (-135) with a 4.5-goal total.

Considering the two teams’ recent performances, it’s tough to argue with those odds. Canada barely got by Switzerland 3-1 yesterday in the semifinal. Canada jumped out to 3-0 lead midway through the first period, but couldn’t do anything to distance themselves from the Swiss after that despite putting 48 shots on goal.

Check out our Sochi 2014 Olympic calendar in Eastern Time here.

After the game, Hayley Wickenheiser, who finished with two assists, tried to stay positive and look ahead to Thursday’s rematch with Team USA.

“It was closer than we wanted it to be,” Wickenheiser told reporters. “They gave us a good game. I think they played more of a hope game and threw it up the middle every time and hoped for chances. (Schelling) made some great saves and we hit a couple of posts. Today wasn’t out greatest game. We still found a way to win.”

Barely. After the quick start, Canada sat back for most of the second period, playing without any sense of urgency. They took bad penalties and turned the puck over in their own end. Midway through the final period, it could have easily been tied if it wasn’t for some big saves from goaltender Shannon Szabados. Another game like that and Team USA will feast on Team Canada’s errors.

The US had no trouble in their semifinal, trouncing Sweden 6-1. Team USA only appears to be getting stronger as the tournament progresses, while it’s hard to know what you’re going to get from Canada at this point.

Still, the good news is Team Canada will reportedly have veteran defenceman Meaghan Mikkelson back in the lineup Thursday. She missed the semifinal due to an undisclosed issue, leaving Canada to play with five defencemen.

A lot has been made of the lack of competition in international women’s hockey, but hopefully this tournament will serve to quiet that discussion. It’s Canada against the USA for the gold medal again, but the gap is closing.

“We’re ready for this,” Wickenheiser told reporters. “We have a lot of players who have been through this before and know exactly what has to be done. What do they say? Courage is just one step ahead of fear. You’ve got to play with courage and that’s what it comes down to.”