Caroline Oulette of Team Canada (Photo by Tyler Ingram)
I’m writing this post at the second intermission of the Canada vs. Slovakia women’s hockey game, and it’s already 12-0 Canada. I think Canada was kind of slacking in the second period, actually, scoring only five goals.
This is the bummer of women’s Olympic hockey, one I’d forgotten about in the run-up to the Games, when the U.S. women’s team was taking on Team Canada, the University of Minnesota, and other hockey powerhouses: half the teams in the pool are what USAHockey would consider B-level at best. The scores in the early games tend to be lopsided, especially when Team USA or Team Canada is on the ice.
I feel Slovakia’s pain. My hockey team was Slovakia in the equivalent of a game against Canada tonight. We didn’t play badly; in fact, we played quite well. Our goalie was awesome. And yet we lost 12 or 13-0. (I don’t know the exact score. The scorekeeper stopped posting goals after 9.) We were just completely outmatched by women who could skate faster, shoot harder, and control the puck better than we could.
Oh man, 14-0 now. I swear, every time they go to commercial, Canada scores. Wait, now it’s 15-0. I think I just missed one when I was typing that last sentence.
While I was adding a title to this post, Canada scored another goal. They’ve now tied the record for the biggest goal differential in Olympic hockey, set by none other than Team Canada in a match against Italy in 2006.
For what it’s worth, Slovakia’s goaltender, Zuzana Tomcikova, has been excellent. The score is more a reflection on the defensemen in front of her, and on Canada’s speed and experience, than on the goalie. She’s made some amazing saves-sometimes multiple saves in a row. (In the time it took to confirm Tomcikova’s first name and comment on the quality of the D to my husband, Canada scored two more goals, making the current score 18-0.)
I should make clear that while I think it’s a bummer for the spectators (and for the losing team) when the score is so lopsided, I don’t think the stronger team should hold back, especially in a tournament setting like the Olympics, where you’re likely to face equally strong opponents in future games. If you play down to the level of the weaker team, you risk losing your edge-and losing to a worthier opponent. I say this even as a member of the usually-weaker team in my league.
Okay, the carnage is finally over. The final score is 18-0. Jaina Heffer had 4 goals, the most ever by an individual player in a single Olympic game, but I think Captain Haley Wickenheiser said it well when she responded to a question from the NBC reporter about who impressed her the most: it’s hard to say in a game like this, when there are so many opportunities, so much room to maneuver. Everybody ends up looking good because they don’t have to work as hard.
She also mentioned that games like this one are dangerous, as they give you a chance to fall into bad habits-and she’s right.
Speaking of that, Sweden defeated Switzerland 3-0 in the Pool A early game today. Commentator Cammie Granato (who’s great off-camera, but absolutely terrible on-hello, affect?) rightly observed that Sweden wouldn’t be able to pull some of the tricks they’d been employing against weaker Switzerland when they matched up against Canada. At the point I had to leave for my own game, I think Sweden’s defensemen had more blocks than their goalie had saves. Cammie remarked that blocking the shot wouldn’t be enough against Canada, that the Canadian skaters would just pick the puck up again and go around the defensemen-and from what I saw in the game against Slovakia tonight, she’s right. I’m now really looking forward to Canada’s game against Sweden on Wednesday.
I’ll probably skip the Canada vs. Switzerland matchup.