BURLINGTON—Canada and the United States, the two heavy favourites to meet for gold on April 14, kick off their respective IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship schedules by doing something they’ve never done before on day one—play each other. Thanks to a new tournament format, the top-ranked nations are in one Group, and the Gutterson Fieldhouse will be the place to be tonight.
The rivalry has produced so many highs and lows for both teams that emotion won’t be a problem. If the players can’t get up for this game, they shouldn’t be here. The game marks the 22nd meeting between the two superpowers of women’s hockey, and the first 21 have plenty of meat to them. Here are some things to consider.
--Only five of those 21 meetings have NOT been for a gold medal. Of those five, the Americans have won three. The team that won the early meeting went on to win gold in three of the five tournaments.
--Nine of the 21 games have been decided by one goal, Canada holding a 6-3 advantage. Six games have been decided by two goals (three wins each), and four games by three goals (two wins each). The only blowout was way back in 1992 at the second WW when Canada won the gold-medal game, 8-0.
--Of the 21 games, only four shutouts have been recorded. Canada won the 2010 Olympics thanks to a Shannon Szabados shutout, while Chanda Gunn had an historic game in 2005 by shutting out Canada for 70 minutes of hockey and the shootout to give the U.S. its first WW gold with a 1-0 win. Canadians Manon Rheaume (1992) and Kim St. Pierre (2004) have the other blank sheets.
--Four games have required more than 60 minutes of play. Nancy Drolet is the only woman to score two overtime goals for gold, thanks to her heroics in both 1997 and 2000. Of course, Hilary Knight scored the OT winner for the Americans just last year in Switzerland, and Angela Ruggiero scored the winning goal in that 2005 shootout victory.
--There is no shortage of experience on either side. Canadians Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser have played an incredible 18 of those 21 games, as had Ruggiero before her retirement. Her American teammate Jenny Potter has played 17 while Jennifer Botterill of Canada has played 16.
--Big players come up big when it counts the most, so it’s no surprise to learn that the all-time points leader in Canada-United States games is Wickenheiser, who has 13 points. She also leads with eight assists, while the top goal scorer is Drolet, with seven. Drolet, Hefford, and Natalie Darwitz of the U.S. are right behind Wickenheiser with 12 points while five players have six goals, one behind Drolet—Darwitz and Potter for the U.S. and Botterill, Hefford, and Danielle Goyette for Canada. Darwitz, Hefford, and Geraldine Heaney are also second with six assists.
--Interestingly, the most penalized player—by a long shot—is Ruggiero, with 48 PIMs. Second is Hefford with 22.
--Drolet is the only player to record a hat trick in this rivalry, something she did twice (1992 and 1997). Three Canadians share the record of four points in a game—France St. Louis (2+2 in 1990), Goyette (1+3 in 1992), and Wickenheiser (2+2 in 2007). There have been eight, three-point games, Darwitz accounting for two of those, in 2004 and 2008. Goyette is the only player to have as many as three assists in a game, a feat she accomplished in 1992.
--As for goalies, Canada’s Kim St. Pierre has been in net for 419:43, tops in the minutes played category. Second is USA's Jesse Vetter (377:38). Not surprisingly, these two are tied for the most wins, four each, while American goalie Erin Whitten leads with four losses (St. Pierre has three).