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Canada, U.S. clash in women’s hockey in first of many meetings on road to Sochi

The game might be tactically conservative, but the players won’t hold anything else back when the Canadian women’s hockey team meets the United States on Saturday.

The Canadian and American women square off in Burlington, Vt., in the first of up to eight meetings before the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, in February. A second exhibition game is scheduled for Oct. 17 in Boisbriand, Que. Canada and the U.S. have met in the final of all 15 women’s world championships with the Canadians holding a 10-5 record, but the U.S. winning four of the last five world titles. Canada is the three-time defending Olympic champion.

Both teams are training full-time — Canada in Calgary and the U.S. in Bedford, Mass. — so Saturday’s game at the University of Vermont is the first chance for each country to see what the other has been up to.

“I don’t think either team will expose every part of their game and won’t be at 100 per cent in every part of their game, but every time you get to play them it’s a great opportunity to learn about your own team and what you need to do to get better,” Canadian head coach Dan Church said.

“I think any times these two teams get to play each other, I think emotion takes over and the passion for your national pride comes to the forefront and it becomes a battle. There’s a good amount of animosity between the players and ultra-competitiveness.” The four other exhibition games between the two countries are scheduled for Dec. 12 in Calgary, Dec. 20 in Grand Forks, N.D., Dec. 28 in St. Paul, Minn., and Dec. 30 in Toronto.

Canada and the U.S. will also meet in the round robin and possibly again in the final at the annual Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., in November.

The two countries don’t often play each other more than four times in a non-Olympic season. Canadian forward Caroline Ouellette doesn’t expect multiple meetings this winter will dull the rivalry.

“When we face each other, we go really hard at one another,” the Montreal native said. “It’s going to be played very physical with a lot of passion. I really look forward to see where we are at this point in our preparation compared to them.”

Forward Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored both of Canada’s goals in a 2-0 win over the U.S. in the 2010 Olympic final, is out for another two to four weeks with a sprained ankle she suffered in September.

Forward Megan Agosta-Marciano will sit out Saturday’s game with what Church calls a lower-body injury, but he thought she may be ready to play in Boisbriand.

Multiple games against the Americans means all three Canadian goalies will get their chances to face them.

Since countries are allowed to take three goalies to the Winter Games, Edmonton’s Shannon Szabados, Charline Labonte of Boisbriand and Genevieve Lacasse of Kingston, Ont., already know they’re on the Canadian team.

Article Source: Donna Spencer (The Canadian Press)

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© 2012 Charline Labonté.
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