Gangneung, South Korea – It’s part of the routine now, as much a staple of the Winter Games as the medal ceremonies, the doping scandals or the sequins on the figure skating costumes.
The United States playing Canada for the Olympic women’s hockey gold medal.
Jennifer Wakefield scored twice and Shannon Szabados stopped 14 shots on Monday night to lead the Canadians to a 5-0 victory over Russia and earn the four-time defending Olympic champions a spot in another gold medal game.
It will be the fifth time in six Winter Games since women’s hockey was added to the program that the North American neighbors have met in the final. No one else has ever skated away with an Olympic gold medal.
Canada outshot Russia 47-14 but struggled to pull away, scoring just once in each of the first two periods before Wakefield bounced one in off goalie Valeria Tarakanova’s right arm just two minutes into the third and then Emily Clark made it 4-0 just 31 seconds later.
Russian coach Alexei Chistyakov swapped his goalies, but it was too late. The Russians still have a chance for their first Olympic women’s hockey medal ever when they play Finland in the bronze medal match on Wednesday.
Marie Philip-Poulin and Rebecca Johnston also scored for Canada, which has won 24 in a row at the Olympics since losing the gold medal game in Nagano in 1998.
The United States advanced to the gold medal game with a 5-0 victory over Finland earlier Monday.
The Americans won the Four Nations Cup, third only to the Olympics and world championships in importance, beating Canada in three of the first four games in a Pyeongchang tuneup tour. But Canada has won the last four, with a 2-1 victory in the pool play finale on Thursday.
None of it matters, really.
The gold medal match is the game these two have been looking forward to since Canada rallied from a two-goal deficit and beat the Americans in overtime in Sochi four years ago.
And it’s the only thing right now that can help the 10 American holdovers from that team ease the pain of their 2014 collapse.
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