As the saying goes, good things come in threes.
And for women’s hockey fans, that means a third consecutive gold medal game between the United States and Canada.
A trio of third-period goals helped Canada romp past (the Olympic Athletes from) Russia by a score of 5-0 in the Olympic semifinal, punching their ticket to a fifth straight gold medal game.
Canada opened the scoring just under two minutes in. Natalie Spooner won a puck battle in the corner, and set up Jenn Wakefield with a sweet feed from behind the net. Wakefield fired through the pads of Russian goalie Valeria Tarakanova to put Canada ahead.
Although Canada went into the intermission leading, the underdog OAR had some looks, particularly one where Yelena Dergachyova had an empty net but fired right into the back of Shannon Szabados’ pad.
Canada added to their lead with another early-period goal in the second, as Marie-Philip Poulin did what Marie-Philip Poulin does best: score points in big games. She received a pass from Mélodie Daoust, put the puck on her backhand, and roofed it past Tarakanova to double the lead.
Same story early in the third: an early Canada goal. Only this time, there were two.
First, Wakefield banked a shot in off of Tarakanova from a bad angle, extending the lead to 3-0. Then, just over 30 seconds later, Laura Stacey threw the puck in front while being tripped up. Sarah Nurse pounced and beat Tarakanova from close range, making it 4-0 Canada, and for the fourth time this tournament, OAR coach Alexei Chistyakov summoned in the bench goalkeeper, replacing Tarakanova with Nadezhda Alexandrova.
No matter. Rebecca Johnston added a power play goal off a rebound with just under six minutes to go, and OAR were too gassed to get any looks in the third, being outshot 22-4 in the final frame.
With about ninety seconds to go, OAR’s frustration boiled over and turned into a dirty play, as Yevgeniya Dyupina ran over Szabados behind the net. Easiest penalty call the referees will ever make.
Szabados stopped all 14 shots she saw for the shutout, while Tarakanova stopped 27 of 31 and Alexandrova stopped 15 of 16 for OAR.
For Canada, despite the early semi-struggles, it’s business as usual. There are three things certain in life: death, taxes, and Canada being in the Olympic gold medal game. Canada took advantage of some tired legs and undisciplined penalties, and cruised to their second 5-0 win over OAR in the tournament.
As for OAR, they may look at that Dergachyova miss and think “what if?”, but the Russian program had never even made the Olympic semifinals in its history, and they still have a shot at a medal. Just having that shot at a medal still is an accomplishment for this program.