Canada starts strong
by Andrew Podnieks|03 FEB 2022
Canada's Natalie Spooner celebrates a goal against Switzerland.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
The cauldron has yet to be lit to start these 24th Olympic Winter Games but already Canada’s women’s team has come out with an emphatic 12-1 victory over the Swiss this afternoon at the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing.

And the early star of the show was 21-year-old Sarah Fillier, who came into the Olympics as the undisputed heir to Marie-Philip Poulin. Fillier scored twice and added an assist in a three-goal first period en route to the win.

"I think it's awesome to get a first game under our belts, build chemistry with our lines and, you know, work on some plays," Fillier noted. "I'm really excited to be here and I want to come out with a lot of energy and luckily my first couple of shifts, some pucks found the net."

Fillier was hardly alone in her fine play. Claire Thompson had a goal and four assists; Natalie Spooner had two goals and three assists; Rebecca Johnston had a goal and three assists; and, Blayre Turnbull had two and two. It was a balanced, explosive, potent attack right across four lines.

Thompson tied a record for women's hockey at the Olympics with three assists in the second period. She and Spooner also were one point shy of the record for most points in a game (6, three times).

If there is one aspect of the game coach Troy Ryan will want to clean up, it's discipline. Canada incurred seven minor penalties, and as the games get tougher that is a number that will prove more and more costly.

"We were pumped," said Swiss captain Lara Stalder. "We started well in the first few shifts. If we could have kept the 0-0 a bit longer, they would maybe have been more frustrated but by allowing goals they came into a flow. In the end it’s a difference in class. They are incredibly strong and it’s great to play against them. I love to play at this level. We have to look at the good things."

Canada came into the game with a 3-0 record against the Swiss at the Olympics, and that included an 18-2 goals differential and a whopping 179-48 difference in shots on goal. Today was no different. Final shots were 70-15, and although Swiss goalie Andrea Brandli played the full 60 minutes and gave up a dozen goals, she also made some sensational saves and was often left to her own devices. 

"I never, never think it’s easy," said winning coach Troy Ryan. "They’re a good team. A lot of depth. You know, I think just offensively, tonight, we were able to spread things out and really use the width and the depth and had a good net from presence as well. So definitely not easy and something that our girls had put a lot of time and effort in to get to that level. It’s still difficult to execute, especially at this stage."

"We wanted to stay in the game as long as possible, but it was just a few minutes," offered Swiss coach Colin Muller. "We lost our faith a bit. We knew it would be difficult against Canada if we allowed them to score early. In the end we were too far away from our own net. Our defence was not good enough. We were not skating well, maybe were a bit nervous. Everything has to work well to keep up with this team. We allowed them six goals too many."

Canada got exactly the start it wanted, swarming the goal of Andrea Brandli. Fillier opened the scoring after just 64 seconds when she batted in a loose puck, taking advantage of a Swiss giveaway behind their own goal. A lengthy video review confirmed the swat was done below the height of the crossbar. Canada continued to press, wave after wave, shift after shift, chasing down every loose puck, coming away with the disc after almost every battle in the corners.

The Canadians made it 2-0 at 7:55 when the Swiss allowed Fillier to skate into the slot unobstructed. She rifled a shot past Brandli’s blocker before the goalie could react. Fillier then set up veteran linemate Spooner for the third goal three and a half minutes later. After more sustained pressure, Fillier nudged the puck out front where Spooner tapped it into the open goal. 

Canada surged ahead by five midway through the second on goals 15 seconds apart. First, Johnston got her own rebound and banged it home at 8:06, and they added another on a nice play by defender Ashton Bell. From behind her own blue line she fired a shot off the corner boards in the Swiss end, and Laura Stacey got there first. Even though she was behind the goal line, shoe took a shot and it bounced off the skate of Brandli and in.

It was a shot the goalie should have stopped, but Brandli made up for it with a string of sensational saves as Canada kept pressing. She stoned Jamie Lee Rattray on a breakaway with a right-pad save, then stopped Turnbull in tight. Still, Canada kept the pressure on and made it 6-0 at 13:20. Spooner got her second of the night off a rebound on the power play. 

That advantage came with a high cost, though. Sarah Forster was in the penalty box for a very hard hit along the boards against Melodie Daoust, who fell to the ice holding her shoulder. She skated off and went right to the dressing room, and didn’t return. 

Canada added two later goals, one by Turnbull off a sensational pass from the corner by Thompson, and then with less than three minutes remaining Stacey made it 8-0 with her second of the period.

Despite all the scoring, the play of the period belonged to goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens, who had little to do. But in the dying seconds, with the Swiss on the power play, she made a glorious save off Laura Stalder, who had a wide-open net. Stalder made a great shot, high, but Desbiens came across the crease, slid with pads in the air, and kept the puck out.

Rattray made a great play to give Canada a 9-0 lead early in the third. She chased down a puck to nullify an icing call, then got the puck in front to Turnbull who made no mistake from close range. 

Swiss captain Stalder got her team's one goal during a 5-on-3 advantage midway through the third. Her centring pass from the side of the goal went off a stick in front and trickled between the pads of Desbiens at 8:30 to make it a 9-1 game.

Soon after, Bell got to a rebound with Brandli down and out and popped the loose puck into the net to make it 10-1. Turnbull added another, and Ambrose closed out the scoring on yet another rebound with exactly two seconds left on the clock.

Canada now has a day off before playing Finland on Saturday while the Swiss are right back at it tomorrow against ROC. All five teams in Group A advance to the quarter-finals, but superior finish will get the easier opponent in the first game of the playoffs, so every game counts.
Canada vs Switzerland - 2022 Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Tournament