Can The Women Take Gold For Team USA?Noah Williams
As expected, Team USA and Team Canada will clash yet again in the finals for the Women’s Ice Hockey gold medal game and as you’d probably guess, Canada has the better odds to win yet again. The Canadians, who have won the last three Olympics outright, edged Switzerland 3-1 in Monday’s semifinal while Team USA decimated Sweden 6-1 to set up another a rematch of the 2010 games. Those wins set up the Olympic finals that everyone wants to see.
Team USA has been led in part by Amanda Kessel, whose brother Phil plays for both the men’s team in Sochi and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kessel has two points against Sweden in another dominant rout of the competition. Team USA piled up 70 shots compared to Sweden’s nine. That’s not a typo. It’s been like that for the Team USA women the entire Olympics.
One of the reasons that Team USA’s odds to win the women’s ice hockey gold should be a strong take is because they’ve been defiant on defense throughout the games. They outscored their opponents 14-4 during the round robin and playoffs, losing only to Canada in group play. By comparison, the Canadians have scored 11 goals and given up 2 against throughout the Olympics.
Defense has been the backbone of Team USA’s game plan throughout the Olympics. Rifling off shots against lesser opponents isn’t that big of a deal to them, but their ability to limit the production of their opponents is what’s helped define their odds to win Women’s Ice Hockey Gold. Canada allowed 22 shots in a 3-1 victory over Switzerland while amassing 48 of their own.
None of this should overshadow Canada’s penchant for coming through in big games. We’re talking about a group that has taken home gold in the last three Olympics and has bested Team USA in almost every matchup except the 1998 gold medal game where Team USA earned its only gold in the sport. They haven’t just been rivals – they’re both the standard for women’s ice hockey.
Unlike the men’s side, women’s hockey has been dominated by the USA and Canada. They have better athletes, better coaches and more money overall and that leads to a stronger team dynamic. You can tell when they face each other – they know that they’re the only two, true heavyweights in women’s ice hockey, which is why both of their odds to win the gold have been miles ahead of everyone else’s since the Sochi Games began.
There’s an obvious, mutual respect between the two sides even if Canada has owned the podium for three straight Olympics. The Canadians are still the team to beat, but this is the best roster that Team USA has assembled ever, and they’ll be out to win gold for their fearless captain, Julie Chu who plans to retire from international play after the gold medal game. Canada hasn’t been untouchable either.
An underlying theme has been prevailing in hockey at Sochi – both of Team USA’s squads have been taking play extremely seriously, while Canada seems to be coasting to a certain degree. The Americans want the gold medal (who doesn’t?) but whether Canada will let them have it remains to be seen. It will be an exciting game, but the advantage, as always, goes to Canada’s odds to win women’s Ice Hockey Gold at Sochi even though miracles happen…especially when the Americans play on Russian soil.