ALMATY, Kazakhstan (U SPORTS) – The Canadian women’s hockey team dominated the United States 8-1 Saturday afternoon in the first semifinal of the 28th Winter Universiade tournament to advance to its fifth consecutive FISU Games championship match.
The U SPORTS all-stars hope to capture their fourth FISU title Monday at 8 p.m. local (9 a.m. EST) when they battle Russia, in a rematch of the 2015 final. The contest will be streamed live on www.livefisu.tv/.
Since women’s hockey was added to the Universiade program, Canada claimed the first three banners in 2009 (Harbin, China), 2011 (Erzurum, Turkey) and 2013 (Trentino, Italy), before suffering a 3-0 gold-medal loss at the hands of the Russians two years ago in Granada, Spain.
Alexandra Labelle of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Que., had three goals and one assist for the second consecutive game and continued to make her case for tournament MVP. Through four games, the University of Montreal forward leads the tourney in goals (9) and points (13).
Defenceman Erica Rieder of Regina and forwards Kaitlin Willoughby of Prince Albert, Sask., Jessica Cormier of Cap-aux-Meules, Que., Rachel Marriott of Waterloo, Ont., and Catherine Dubois of Charlesbourg, Que., also scored in the lopsided victory, while forward Daley Oddy of Cranbrook, B.C., collected a trio of assists.
The Canucks dominated from start to finish and led 3-0 after the opening period and 5-1 after 40 minutes. Shots on goals were 58-12, including a whopping 23-2 advantage in the first frame, 21-4 in the second and 14-6 in the third.
Canada’s special teams were solid once again with three goals in nine power play opportunities and a clean sheet in six penalty killing situations.
Oddly enough, Valerie Lamenta of Montreal lost her shutout bid during a Canadian man advantage late in the second period. The University of Guelph netminder was screened on a point shot by Rebecca Senden, and had no chance on the play.
“On my first goal, it was really a great pass by Sharman. I switched lines and we really didn’t know each other that much. Oddy, Sharman and I, we saw each other really well on the ice,” said Labelle. “This was a total team effort. We didn’t think we’d beat the U.S. by such a score. But we still have some work to do if we want to beat the Russians because they’re a very talented team. We’re really looking forward to the final.”
“I thought the game went really well. We made some nice plays and got the puck in the back of the net,” added Sharman, a University of Manitoba forward from Winnipeg who assisted on two of Labelle’s markers. “With all the power plays and penalties, it was good to work on those and we should be ready to go against Russia. We’re really excited about playing in the final.”
Head coach Rachel Flanagan from the University of Guelph was pleased with her team’s performance.
“We’re really excited to be going to the gold medal game. The U.S. pressured us pretty hard, we expected them to sit back more. So we had to make some adjustments. I thought the girls had a good game. We feel very good moving forward. Of course we have a few things to work on in practice but we’ll be ready for Monday’s game.”
Despite spending most of the first period in the USA zone, the U SPORTS standouts had to wait until the 10:24 mark to open the scoring, when Cormier potted her third of the tournament on the power play.
The floodgates were then open and Canada quickly tripled its lead courtesy of back-to-back goals by Marriott and Rieder at 15:16 and 16:10.
Early in the second period, the Americans took four penalties in a span of four minutes and the Canadians made them pay dearly with two 5-on-3 markers 49 seconds apart, by Dubois and Labelle.
Willoughby, with her first of the competition, and Labelle, with her second and third of the afternoon, rounded out the scoring in the third.
The USA will face China for bronze Monday at 4:30 p.m. local (5:30 a.m. EST).