ALMATY, Kazakhstan (U SPORTS) – Canada captured its first gold medal of the 28th Winter Universiade on Tuesday morning thanks to a convincing 8-3 victory over Russia in women’s curling at Almaty Arena. The triumph came less than 24 hours after the red and white delegation’s first podium finish of the FISU Games, a silver medal in women’s hockey on Monday night.
In other Canadian action on the 11th and penultimate day of competition at the biennial multisport event, the men’s hockey team comprised of Ontario University Athletics all-stars will play for bronze on Wednesday after dropping a 4-1 semifinal decision to Russia, while Jessica Paterson of St. Albert, Alta., posted Canada’s best-ever individual result in Universiade biathlon with an 11th-place finish in the women’s 12.5-kilometre mass start.
In women’s curling, skip Kelsey Rocque of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and her University of Alberta foursome completed by vice-skip Danielle Schmiemann of Stony Plain, Alta., second Taylor McDonald of Edmonton and lead Taylore Theroux of Fort Saskatchewan wrapped up an exceptional week of competition that saw them finish atop the round-robin standings with a 7-2 record, before defeating Sweden 7-4 in the semifinal round and Russia 8-3 in the championship match, both in nine ends.
Since curling made its Universiade debut in 2003, Canada has now claimed two FISU titles in the women’s tournament along with a trio of silver medals. A University of Calgary squad skipped by Brittany Gregor was crowned in 2007 in Turin, Italy.
Team Rocque took control of the championship final from the start, kicking off with a blank in the first end, scoring a deuce in the second, then stealing two more points in the third after Victoria Moiseeva’s final draw against two came up short.
Up 5-1 at the break, the Canadians continued to force the play, hitting their way out of trouble whenever the Russians were able to get some offence started. By the ninth end, leading 6-3 and not missing anything, the Canucks had the gold medal in their sights, and when Moiseeva’s final draw didn’t make the rings, it was time for handshakes.
With the win, Canada avenged a loss to Russia in the 2015 Universiade final in Granada, Spain. The Russians came in as two-time defending champions.
“We knew coming in that every game was going to be really tough,” said Rocque. “To play this consistently all week and to come away with a gold medal for Canada, I can’t put it into words. It’s unbelievable. I’m just so lucky to be standing next to these girls and (Coach) Garry (Coderre).
“I think we kept our last couple of best games for last, not just the gold-medal game. We played really well the last five or six games. We’re really proud of our performance.”
“I can’t even express how proud I am of these girls,” added coach Garry Coderre. “They worked really hard all week. Just to see the smiles on their faces, it’s just great. There’s probably going to be a little celebrating going on later today.”
In men’s hockey, Team Canada’s gold-medal hopes vanished against a familiar foe. Canada and Russia were meeting in the Final Four for the sixth straight Universiade, including Russian wins in the 2009 final and three semifinals (2001, 2015, 2017) and Canadian victories in the 2007 title match and the 2013 semis.
The OUA standouts (4-1) still have a shot at bronze Wednesday at 11 a.m. local (midnight EST) against either host Kazakhstan (4-0) or the Czech Republic (3-1), who were facing off Tuesday evening in the second semifinal. Canada has reached the podium 14 times (4-3-7) in 15 previous appearances at the FISU tournament.
The third-place matchup will be streamed live on www.livefisu.tv/.
The Canadians had their hands full from the get-go against a powerful Russian roster boasting nine players with KHL experience. The defending FISU champions opened the scoring four minutes and 18 seconds into the first period on the power play and didn’t let up the pressure, finishing with a 34-16 advantage in shots on goal.
The lone Canadian goal, by University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières forward Guillaume Asselin of Quebec City, came with 15 seconds remaining in the contest. Queen’s University netminder Kevin Bailie of Belleville, Ont., kept his team in the game with countless big stops and finished with 30 saves.
“It wasn’t for a lack of effort today, it never will be with Canadian kids. The guys gave everything they had but they played a real good hockey team. Let’s be honest, the Russians came here with a stacked club and it was going to take our best to beat them,” said head coach Brett Gibson from Queen’s. “Unfortunately, the chips didn’t fall the way we wanted them to but it definitely wasn’t for a lack of effort. These kids came to play today. Full marks to our opponents. They’re a great hockey team.
“I just told the guys… It’s one of those things. When you get later in your life, you have things to look back on. When you have an opportunity to bring home a medal for Canada, it’s something you should be motivated to bring back. I know these guys. It hurts right now but they’ll come back ready to play tomorrow.”
Team captain Olivier Hinse, a Concordia University forward from Sherbrooke, Que., echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“We stuck to the game plan and we competed until the last second. We all wish the outcome would have been different but we worked hard, and now we have to pick ourselves up for tomorrow’s game. We have to stay tight as a family. We’re a brotherhood in there. I know we’re going to be ready for tomorrow. It’s just going to be another game and we’re going to win a medal for our country.”
In biathlon, Paterson started at the back of the pack but gained ground throughout the race to end up within 14 seconds of a top-10 finish in the field of 29 competitors.
Ranked 21st going in, the University of Alberta Augustana student quickly moved up to 18th at her first shooting and then 12th at her second, and even made it to ninth at her third shooting. Her total final time of 40:02.0 – with only two shooting penalties – left her 3.46 minutes behind gold medallist Galina Vishnevskaya, a 2014 Olympian from Kazakhstan.
This was the last of four events in Almaty for Paterson, who previously took part in the 15 km (23rd) and 7.5 km (22nd) individual races, as well as the mixed relay (7th).
“I had a really nice race today. I was able to maintain a good pace and stay focused throughout the event. I started off near the back but I climbed up the rankings at every stage. By the time I got to my last shooting, I was already in 11th place. I’m very pleased with this result because this event is not typically my strong suit,” said Paterson, who was wearing the Maple Leaf for the second straight Universiade. “These Games have been a lot of fun. It’s been a different experience than two years ago. The biathlon venue is spectacular. Overall, it has just been a great week.”
On the men’s side, Seamus Boyd-Porter of St. John’s was 26th in the 15 km mass start in 55:32.5.
In alpine skiing, it was a difficult day on the slopes of Shymbulak Ski Resort for the red and white contingent as only one of six Canadians completed the two runs of the men’s slalom.
Vincent Lajoie of Montreal was 28th in 2:02.01. Three teammates failed to finish the first run, while the other two saw their day end in the second.
In cross-country skiing, Christel Pichard-Jolicoeur of Saint- Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., was the top Canuck in the women’s 15 km mass start classic with a 24th position in 51:18.0.
Shelby Dickey of Collingwood, Ont. (25th), Andrée-Anne Théberge of Lévis, Que. (30th), Kyla Vanderzwet of Port Elgin, Ont. (31st) and Emma Camicioli of Edmonton (36th) followed at the finish line.
In addition to the men’s hockey bronze medal game, Canada will compete in only one sport on Wednesday on the final day of the Games, with six cross-country skiers in the men’s 30 km mass start classic.
The closing ceremonies are set for 7 p.m. local (8 a.m. EST) at Almaty Arena, live on www.livefisu.tv/.
RESULTS FROM TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7
1. Richard Leitgeb, Austria, 1:55.16; 2. Bernhard Binderitsch, Austria, 1:56.44; Tobias Kogler, Austria, 1:56.57; 28. Vincent Lajoie, Montreal, Que., 2:02.01; DNF Gabriel Mains, Montreal, Que.; DNF William Schuessler-Bédard, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.; DNF Philippe Rivet, Saint-Lambert, Que.; DNF Simon-Claude Toutant, Joliette, Que.; DNF William Mercier-Robin, Quebec City, Que.
Women’s 12.5 km Mass Start
1. Galina Vishnevskaya, Kazakhstan, 36:15.4; 2. Yana Bondar, Ukraine, 37:17.7; 3. Larisa Kuklina, Russia, 37:28.5; 11. Jessica Paterson, St. Albert, Alta., 40:02.0.
Men’s 15 km Mass Start
1. Baptiste Jouty, France, 43:30.0; 2. Roman Yeryomin, Kazakhstan, 43:43.5; 3. Anton Pantov, Kazakhstan, 43:57.7; 26. Seamus Boyd-Porter, St. John’s, Nfld., 55:32.5.
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
Women’s 15 km Mass Start Classic
1. Lilia Vasilieva, Russia, 44:09.7; 2. Anna Nechaevskaya, Russia, 44:11.7; 3. Anna Shevchenko, Kazakhstan, 44:17.5; 24. Christel Pichard-Jolicoeur, Saint- Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., 51:18.0; 25. Shelby Dickey, Collingwood, Ont., 51:33.5; 30. Andrée-Anne Théberge, Lévis, Que., 53:22.3; 31. Kyla Vanderzwet, Port Elgin, Ont., 51:32.3; 36. Emma Camicioli, Edmonton, Alta., 56:06.0.
CAN 0 2 2 0 1 0 0 1 2 x – 8
RUS 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 x – 3
Canada (9-2) wins 8-3 in 9 ends vs. Russia (7-4), claims second gold medal in women’s curling since sport made Universiade debut in 2003 (Brittany Gregor, 2007) and fifth women’s curling medal overall (2-3-0).
Canada (4-1) loses 4-1 vs. Russia (5-0) in semifinal, advances to bronze-medal game, faces Kazakhstan (4-0) or Czech Republic (3-1) on Wednesday, February 8 at midnight EST (11 a.m. local).