Rivalries aren’t all that uncommon in hockey tournaments at the Winter Olympics. The United States and Soviet Union clashed repeatedly, most memorably in 1980 in Lake Placid. The Canadians had their own rivalry with the USSR, with some of the greatest hockey games in history being played between the two nations.
In today’s hockey landscape, there are few rivalries that can match the bitterness and intensity that fans will see between the United States and Canada in women’s hockey, and the two rivals will battle again on Wednesday in Sochi.
Both teams are 2-0 so far in Olympic play, having dispatched Finland with relative ease and having blown out Switzerland in order to set up Wednesday’s showdown. Rebecca Johnston has scored twice for the Canadians in their two games, while the US has gotten two goals from Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, Alex Carpenter, Monique Lamoureux and Kendall Coyne in just two games.
In total, the US has outscored its opponents by a remarkable 12-1 margin in just two games, while Canada has scored eight goals while not allowing any in their games. These totals are even more impressive considering the fact that the IOC ended up creating a two-tier format with the top four teams all playing in Pool A.
With those numbers in mind, there’s an interesting question to consider: which team carries an advantage into Wednesday’s game? After all, the US is coming off of an easy 9-0 win over Switzerland on Monday, and they have been dominating offensively throughout the tournament. The Canadians have been spot-on both defensively and in net in their first two games, and they had to win a hard fought 3-0 victory over Finland on Monday.
Also worth considering is the fact that the US has been flying high ever since playing some of their best hockey as 2013 ended in a series of games with these Canadians. The two teams had a memorable matchup in December that culminated in a massive linebrawl between the sides, and the US’ advantage in the series ultimately led to the resignation of Canadian head coach Dan Church late last year, and Kevin Dineen has been trying to restructure the team ever since.
So which team has the advantage in the game? Is it the US, who have been scoring goals all over the place and are riding a wave of momentum that grew in large part due to wins over Canada? Or is it the Canadians, who have been truly battle tested in these Olympics already, and who are trying to prove that they are still the dominant team in the women’s game?
It might be tempting to go with the Americans considering how well they’ve played so far in Sochi, but the Canadian side wins by a narrow margin. They are defending champions in this tournament for a reason, and with a big win under their belts and a tremendous defense that should be able to figure out a way to slow down the US juggernaut, Team Canada should hold a slight edge when the puck drops on Wednesday morning.
The game will be aired at 6:30am Central time on NBCSN.