From the puck release to the last summer, Friday’s quarterfinal match between Canada and Sweden belonged to the Canadians, their dominant 11-0 victory took them on to the semifinal round and continued their perfect performance at these games.
Canada surpassed the Swedes by 56-11 and retained its mission to return to the podium for the seventh time in as many Olympic tournaments. Led by captain Marie-Philip Poulin and Sarah Nurse’s play, a couple of hat-tricks from Sarah Fillier and Brianne Jenner, and a solid performance from goalkeeper Emerance Maschmeyer, the Canadians’ victory was never questioned.
The same can not really be said about the other half of hockey’s best rivalry. Earlier this Friday, Team USA survived an almost upset match to win over the Czech Republic in their quarter-final match.
A 1-1 draw on the way into the third period, Team USA advanced to the final frame thanks to Lee Stecklein’s winners and insurance goals from Savannah Harmon and Kendall Coyne Schofield to win it 4-1 and advance to the semifinals.
With hopes for a gold medal rematch between Canada and the United States still very much alive and flourishing, here is a summary of takeaways from Canada’s victory over Sweden.
We will need more hats
On the way into the elimination round, Brianne Jenner and Sarah Fillier led the tournament to a goal with five each (Jenner’s extra assist gave her the advantage over Fillier in points).
When they left the ice after the victory over Sweden, they remained a draw at the top of the goals – this time with eight goals each, after both scored a hat trick.
JENNER HAT TRICK
Brianne Jenner makes it 10-0 for Canada pic.twitter.com/nxQK9mwsIu
– CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) 11 February 2022
After Jenner opened the game’s goal early in the first, Fillier struck two quick markers near the end of the frame. Jenner’s second came in the middle of a plethora of Canadian goals in the middle of the period, and both women topped Canada’s goal round in the third and completed their respective hat-tricks with just two minutes between them.
Sarah Fillier really said I want one too
Fillier completes the hat trick and makes it 11-0 for the Canadians pic.twitter.com/4tJdVnQ1V9
– CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) 11 February 2022
Fillier, an Olympic rookie and the youngest member of the Canadian women’s squad in Beijing, wasted no time in introducing himself to his Olympic teammates and quickly established himself as one of the best players in all of hockey. Fast is a key word here – of her eight goals in the tournament so far, six have come during the first match period. Fillier started Team Canada’s goal in the Olympics with two goals against Switzerland, added two more against Finland one match later and followed it up with his fifth in Canada’s third match in Beijing. Canada’s round-robin victory over Team USA was the only match in which she did not turn on the light.
Fillier and Jenner are now both just one goal away from breaking the Olympic record for most goals in a single game – Canada’s Meghan Agosta and Switzerland’s Stefanie Marty each scored nine goals in Vancouver 2010.
Canada’s powerful power game continues
As impressive as Canada’s World Cup race in August was, there was one area that needed a little help: special teams.
The national team and its coaching staff had six months to improve their powerplay, and the program is currently reaping the benefits of these efforts in Beijing. Canada’s power-play unit has been absolutely dominant, with a tournament’s best power-play percentage of 50.0 percent.
Their extra special team was on full display last Friday against Sweden when Canada took advantage of their first four opportunities in the match while they managed to kill all three of their own penalties.
If Canada and the United States meet in the gold medal game that most people expect, their strong special team efforts will be an important story – just as it was during the countries’ first meeting to end the preliminary round. Canada scored on its lone powerplay against Team USA Monday, successfully killing five of its six penalties taken, as the Americans could have little success with the advantage.
Poulin shows up at a play clinic
Friday’s quarterfinal match against Sweden officially marked Marie-Philip Poulin’s 150th match with Team Canada. During the course of her brilliant national team career, we have come to associate Poulin, 30, with flawless finishes and performances on the podium, elite games and her incredible ability to get ahead.
As many past and present teammates have said, it is Poulin’s consistent ability to lead by example that really makes her one of the greats of all time. So it’s only fitting that the humble captain marks game number 150 by doing what she’s best at: raising her surroundings.
Poulin put four assists against Sweden, twice put veteran Brianne Jenner, with assists to Fillier and Erin Ambrose in between.
The pass to Ambrose, a crispy cross-ice dish that cut through Sweden’s defense early in the second period, stood out as one of the game’s most beautiful pieces.
Poulin was not the only Canadian who had four assistants on Friday – teammate Sarah Nurse, who has played some of her absolute best hockey in Beijing, also made four assists against Sweden. She also had a hand in two of Jenner’s three goals together with Poulin, and was dominant in power-play with two special team assists.
Nurse (4-8-12) and Poulin (2-8-12) are now second and third in the tournament’s scoring behind points leader Natalie Spooner (3-10-13) through five matches.
Sweden’s Olympic matches continue
Sixteen years ago, Canada and Sweden went head-to-head with Olympic gold in ladies’ hockey at the 2006 Games in Turin. The Canadians’ 4-1 victory that year marked their second straight gold game, while Sweden’s silver, which came four years after the nation first landed on the women’s hockey podium with bronze in 2002, felt like a victory in itself – progress.
Since these games in Turin, however, Canada’s and Sweden’s national women’s program has gone in two different directions. While the Canadians have continued their dominance, Sweden has failed to reach the podium since then and has had little success on the international stage in the ladies’ game at senior level.
However, that may soon change, with a youth movement happening with the program. Of the 23 women who represent Sweden on the Olympic stage in Beijing, 16 are 23 years or younger. Sweden reached the podium in the 2018 World Championships for women under 18 in 2018, but we have not had an opportunity to see many of the world’s top U-18 players in the last two years as 2021 and 2022 tournaments (planned to be played in Sweden) canceled due to covid.
The team’s path will be interesting to follow over the next four years.