SZABADOS STARS AGAIN, SENDS CANADA TO FINAL AT WOMEN’S WORLDS

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Shannon Szabados
PLYMOUTH, Mich. – Shannon Szabados (Edmonton, Alta./Fort Saskatchewan, CHL) made 23 saves for her second-consecutive shutout, helping Canada’s National Women’s Team blank Finland 4-0 on Thursday to advance to the gold medal game at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

The Canadians are into the final for the 18th time at women’s worlds, and will face either the United States or Germany for gold on Friday night (7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT).

Szabados earned her 41st career win with Team Canada, moving her past Sami Jo Small for third all-time among Canadian goaltenders, and her 15th shutout tied her with Small for third place.

Finland handed Canada a shocking 4-3 defeat in preliminary-round play last Saturday, but the Canadians made sure early there would be no repeat; they took the play to the Scandinavians early, although the play of Finnish netminder Noora Räty kept the game scoreless.

Canada finally broke through late in the opening frame; Sarah Potomak (Aldergrove, B.C./University of Minnesota, WCHA) redirected a point shot from Halli Krzyzaniak (Neepawa, Man./University of North Dakota, WCHA) off the side of the net, but quickly stuffed in the rebound for a 1-0 lead at 17:35.

Marie-Philip Poulin (Beauceville, Que./Montreal, CWHL) doubled the advantage five minutes into the second period, patiently outwaiting a sliding Finnish defenceman before popping the water bottle over the short-side shoulder of Räty.

Poulin played the set-up role on the 3-0 goal at 7:33, feeding Rebecca Johnston (Sudbury, Ont./Calgary, CWHL) for a power-play marker. It was Canada’s first goal with the man advantage in nine chances against the Finns in the tournament.

Szabados took over from there, making a pad save off Linda Valimaki in the last minute of the middle frame before stretching to get her blocker on a Venla Hovi chance for a how-did-she-do-that stop midway through the third period.

Emily Clark (Saskatoon, Sask./University of Wisconsin, WCHA) capped the scoring with a shorthanded goal into an empty net with 4:29 remaining.

Szabados got progressively busier as the game went along, making five saves in the first period, seven in the second and 11 more in the third. She is the first Canadian goaltender to post back-to-back shutouts at women’s worlds since Kim St-Pierre blanked Sweden and Finland in 2009.

Quotes:

 

“There was some redemption there tonight, but we didn’t focus too much on the past – we just continued to learn and get better as a team. We’ve been successful in doing that and focusing on our systems, the little details and habits that help us win and not just expect it. We’ve had to work for it and it’s been a good awakening.”

–      Jocelyne Larocque (Ste. Anne, Man./Brampton, CWHL) on how Canada refocused to face Finland again after its early preliminary loss

 

“Obviously the win was important tonight to get to that game we want to be in tomorrow. As a group, we’ve just been building off the confidence we’ve worked to build up this whole tournament.”

–      Clark on looking ahead to the gold-medal game

 

“I thought we had a good start tonight, one of our goals was to play fast and I thought we executed on that. It was really important for us to get pucks deep on Finland early and our team did a really great job of buying into the gameplan. Moving forward we have to continue to execute the details, we have to make sure that our habits are there and if we do that, we can be successful.”

–      Head coach Laura Schuler (Scarborough, Ont./Dartmouth, ECAC) on Canada’s performance on Thursday and looking ahead to the gold-medal game 

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