Canada skated Team ROC into the ice tonight in Calgary, pouring shots and great chances on two goalies before coming away with an impressive 5-1 win.
ROC's only goal came with only 1.3 seconds remaining on a power play and denied Ann-Renee Desbiens of a shutout. The goal came off a faceoff scramble and finished with a nice shot from captain Olga Sosina. It had the double effect also of denying youngster Sarah Fillier of her second straight game-winning goal.
That honour instead went to another newcomer, Ella Shelton, who had absolutely no IIHF experience with Team Canada prior to this tournament.
At the other end, Canada poured 62 shots at Nadezhda Morozova and Anna Prugova, but the Canadians did take five penalties in the game (as did ROC), perhaps the only blemish in a sensational performance.
"A lot of the time we'll take the night to sleep on it," said winning coach Troy Ryan. "Right now we're okay with the physical side of our game, and the odd time you are going to tae a penalty, but we have confidence in our penalty kill. What we want to get away from is the stick infractions and not taking the extra step and reaching with our stick."
"I was happy with the way we played for the first 20 or 25 minutes," offered ROC coach Yevgeni Bobariko. "We tried to make as many scoring chances as the Canadians and control the puck and be aggressive in the first period, but in the second period they turned it up a notch and they used the closer bench to the offensive zone to their advantage and scored two quick goals. That was what put us back."
Coming into the game Canada had won all previous 11 meetings between the teams in World Women’s play by a cumulative score of 88-7, and Russia had never scored more than a single goal in any one game. Canada's smallest margin of victory in those games was four goals.
The start of the game belied those numbers, though. Bobariko’s team played close to the Canadians, kept them to the outside, and surrendered little ice. But as the period wore on, Canada’s relentless skating took its toll on the ROC skaters, leaving Morozova to fend for herself on several occasions.
The 24-year-old goalie was nothing short of sensational, and even though her team was outshot 16-3 in the opening period, she stopped each and every one of those shots. In the last half of the period, several were gorgeous scoring chances. She stopped captain Marie-Philip Poulin from in close, then a chance from Brianne Jenner who was alone at the top of the crease. And soon after Melodie Daoust, whose shot from close range was also stopped by Morozova.
"We always try to play to win," said Sosina. "Today, we needed to create more chances. The shots were very high in their favour. We had some good moments, but we couldn't turn those into good shots on goal. We need to take it to the next level to comepete with the Canadians and Americans. We need to play all out from start to finish, but we must convert our chances."
"That's the game of hockey," said Melodie Daoust. "We're going to keep shooting the puck, keep crashing the net, and at some point it's going to go in. It's a process, and we want to make sure we keep building one shift after another."
Finally, a breakthrough. Filler, the 21-year-old hero of the team’s opening 5-3 win over Finland, got a loose puck in her end and skated down the left side on a three-on-one. She held onto the puck and fired to the low side, finally beating Morozova at 7:29 and giving her team a sense of relief.
Less than two minutes later, Canada scored again when Jenner made a sensational cross-ice pass in the ROC end to find Shelton, a Clarkson grad making her debut with Team Canada. She rifled a shot over Morozova’s glove.
"Jenny just took the puck up the wall, and I think being an active defence is important in all these games, so I jumped down. She made a great pass across. I took my chance and threw the puck on the net, and good things happened."
Then, at 13:48, Canada put the game out of reach. Erin Ambrose’s long shot through traffic hit a ROC stick in front and bobbled into the goal, and that spelled the end for Morozova, not because she was at fault for the 3-0 deficit but because Bobariko wanted to save her She had already fielded 36 shots.
Canada added a fourth goal early in the third when incoming goalie Anna Prugova failed to close her glove on a Spooner wraparound. Daoust swopped in and shoved the puck over the line.
Emily Clark made it 5-0 at 14:09 after another long period of sustained pressure. Her wrist shot beat Prugova between the pads. Soon after, Victoria Bach snapped a loose puck into the open side to add to the tally, but the goal was called back after a ROC challenge on a possible offside. Video review confirmed the violation and the goal was disallowed.
"I think sometimes in games where you have a lot of offensive zone possession, you can get away from the little things that make you successful," Ryan noted. "Tonight, we kept doing the little things, speading out the offensive zone, having a good net presence. Any time the game got away from us tonight, I thought we were able to rebound."
Both teams have a day off before playing on Tuesday. ROC will take on the U.S. to open the day’s program, after which Canada will face Switzerland.