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U.S.-Canada collision course set in Sochi Olympics women's hockey

Before the U.S. women can look ahead to facing Canada for the gold, they must first deal with a tough Swedish team, and Canada must get by a formidable Swiss goalie.

February 16, 2014|By Chris Kuc
  • U.S. captain Meghan Duggan (10) keeps her eyes on the puck during a preliminary-round game against Finland last week.
U.S. captain Meghan Duggan (10) keeps her eyes on the puck during a preliminary-round… (Alexander Nemenov / AFP…)

SOCHI, Russia — All of the talk during the United States' practice in advance of its women's hockey semifinal matchup was about Sweden, the U.S. team's opponent.

It wasn't until the players stepped off the sheet and the team met reporters Sunday did the topic arise of facing you-know-who for you-know-what.

"We're not looking straight to the gold-medal game," U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said. "We have a huge semifinal game against a great team and we'll worry about that one and then we'll go from there."

The U.S. and Canada remain on a collision course but still have business to attend to before that game can happen. Sweden stunned Finland in a quarterfinal to set up its date with Team USA in Monday's first semifinal, then Canada faces off against Switzerland.

"We're all fired up," U.S. Coach Katey Stone said. "The main thing is that our kids play their best hockey the next two games, individually and collectively."

There is a history between the U.S. and Sweden. The Swedes defeated the Americans, 3-2, in a semifinal at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, the only time in 12 international meetings Sweden has beat the U.S. Pernilla Winberg, Sweden's top scorer in Sochi, with two goals and three assists, scored the winner in '06 on a penalty shot.

Stone said she doesn't plan to use that loss as motivation. "Some of these kids are too young, that stuff is in the past," she said. "It's a totally different team."

Four-time Olympian Julie Chu is expected to play after injuring her left hand during Saturday's practice, and Jessie Vetter will get the call in goal.

Meanwhile, Canada has cruised through the tournament, including a 3-2 win over the U.S. in the preliminary round. Canada's only potential stumbling block to an opportunity to play for a third consecutive gold medal is Swiss goalie Florence Schelling.

"They have a great goaltender, so we will have to work around her," Canada forward Hayley Wickenheiser said. "If we can do that, we have great speed and the defensive ability and can capitalize on anything they throw at us."

ckuc@tribune.com

Twitter: @ChrisKuc

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