Reuters - Fri, 26 Feb 01:48:00 2010
Canada beat the United States 2-0 to claim a third straight Olympic women's ice hockey title, setting the stage for what the hosts hope will be a hockey gold medal double.
Canada scored two first-period goals from Marie-Philip Poulin, and shutout netminding from Shannon Szabados helped complete an unbeaten romp through the Olympic competition that ended in a wild celebration with players pouring off the bench to a deafening standing ovation.
"It's so special I don't know if it's sunk in yet," said Canada's Hayley Wickenheiser who was playing in her fourth Olympics. "You grow up in Canada you know the expectations.
"We stuck together, believed in ourselves and played hard..just to win on home ice, the crowd and family."
Hockey-mad Canadians will be hoping to repeat the scene on Sunday if the men's team can get past Slovakia in their semi-final Friday and move on to the gold medal final.
"We wish them good luck and I hope we inspire them," Canadian forward Gillian Apps said.
The final was played out in front of an excited capacity crowd that included hockey icon Wayne Gretzky and actor Michael J Fox at Canada Hockey Place in an electric atmosphere that almost rivalled the Canadian men's clash with Russia a day earlier.
Played at a pace and skill level not before seen in Vancouver, the final provided an example of just how compelling the women's game be.
But the contest was one of just a handful of truly competitive games played in the women's tournament; a fact that did not go unnoticed by the International Olympic Committee.
Earlier in the day, IOC president Jacques Rogge fired a warning shot across the sport's bows, acknowledging that the huge gap in skill between the two North American powerhouses and the rest of the world needed to be addressed.
Women's hockey has been in the Games since 1998 and Canada and the US have won every gold medal and met in three of four finals.
Canada blasted their way to the gold medal game by outscoring opponents 46-2 while the Americans outclassed their opposition 40-2.
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