By Jimmy Golen
SOCHI, Russia: After losing to Canada in the preliminary round, the United States women’s hockey team gathered for a film session that was lengthier and more pointed than any previous one the players could remember.
“Whenever film sessions run 30 minutes or longer, it’s not the happiest moment,” U.S. forward Monique Lamoureux said Wednesday after the team’s last full practice before a rematch against Canada in the gold medal game. “I got called out, and a lot of people did. We took it to heart.
“After that, we felt a lot better because we know we can do better and we will do better.”
The United States and Canada will meet in the women’s hockey gold medal game today for the fourth time in five Olympics. Canada holds a 2-1 edge over the Americans in Olympic championship games, and it also beat them 3-2 in a preliminary round last week that the U.S. players took as a warning.
“They were disappointed, as anyone would be,” U.S. coach Katey Stone said. “There were a few kinks that we were able to work out.”
The U.S. recovered for a 6-1 victory over Sweden in the semifinal to set up the expected gold medal rematch with Canada. The three-time defending Olympic champions beat Switzerland 3-1 and have a chance to earn their fourth gold medal in the five Olympics since women’s hockey was added to the Winter Games in 1998.
Canada forward Marie-Philip Poulin said the team feels pressure to win but “it’s a good pressure.”
“We have a lot of support in Canada,” she said. “So we’ll be ready.”
The teams moved from the temporary Shayba Arena to the larger Bolshoy Ice Dome next door for their final workouts Wednesday. Canada went first on the practice rink inside the 12,000-seat Ice Dome, where Sweden and Switzerland will play for the bronze medal this afternoon before the championship.
Canada has never missed a women’s hockey final. The only time the United States didn’t join them there was in 2006, when the Americans lost in a semifinal shootout to Sweden.
“I don’t get nervous. It’s just another game,” said Canada defenseman Jocelyne Larocque, who was one of the last players cut before the Vancouver Games four years ago. “You just focus on the present and not try to think like it’s bigger than it really is.”
The puck, the rink, the clock are all just like they always are.
“Everything is the same,” she said, “other than it’s for an Olympic gold medal.”