GANGNEUNG — For a while there on Sunday night, the scoreboard at the Kwandong Hockey Centre suggested that some parts of the world may indeed by catching up to Canada in women’s hockey.
It was 0-0 after 20 minutes and some of the young Russian players had even baffled a Canadian or two with a slick and elusive deke.
Let’s not get carried away just yet, however.
After a thoroughly dominating 5-0 Canadian win over the team formally known as the Olympic Athletes of Russia, the four-time reigning Olympic champs showed the ice is still tilted in their favour.
Sure, others may be playing better and faster, but the seasoned Canadians made it emphatically clear that it’s possible they’ve raised their own level by as much or more than anyone else.
“I was happy with our play but it’s going to be important for us to continue to play that type of a game where it’s honest hockey and blue-collared hockey,” said coach Laura Schuler, who was making her Olympic debut behind the Canadian bench. “(We have to) not be afraid to get physical and get pucks in behind them and win foot races.
“The Olympics are about heart and soul and giving it your all.”
Melodie Daoust of Canada scores against OAR goallie Nadezhda Morozova in the second period of Canada’s 5-0 win on Feb. 11, 2018.
The Canadians did that and more, essentially pounding the will out of a fast and somewhat skilled Russian team, but one light on Olympic experience. With a mix of 14 veterans and nine rookies on the roster, the Canadians were relentless all over the ice, methodically wearing the Russians down and taking control.
Appearing hungry to get things going after six-plus months of training in their Calgary base, the Canadians came out flying with a 15-5 edge in shots on goal in the first period alone.
The goals would come eventually — three in the second and two more in the third — as the Russians became unglued at their inability to slow down their more accomplished foes.
“We felt like they were getting a little tired there and it was important for us to keep the foot on the gas pedal and not be satisfied,” Schuler said.
Based on the result and the style of Sunday’s play, the Canadians sure seemed intent on making a statement in their opener, and they were easily the best of the four teams that played that night.
Hours before puck drop against the Russians, Canada’s archrival, the Americans, were forced to battle their way to a 3-1 win over Finland, breathing easier only after an empty-netter late in the game. In fact, the pesky Finns had taken a 1-0 lead after the opening period, forcing the team considered by some as pre-tournament favourites to dig in.
Back in their own game, the Canadians eventually filled the net on Russian goaltender Nadezhda Alexandrova, who faced 48 shots on the night and could easily have surrendered several more.