PLYMOUTH, Mich. — It takes fortitude to stand in front of a Jennifer Wakefield slapshot.
Haley Irwin’s willingness to do so got Canada off to the races in an 8-0 win over Russia at the women’s world hockey championship Monday.
At five foot 10 and 170 pounds, the velocity Wakefield generates is especially problematic for a goalie if she can’t see the shot coming.
Irwin’s body provided the smokescreen for Canada’s first power-play goal of the tournament and the first of three scored in the game.
“If a goalie can’t see a shot, it’s harder to stop,” Irwin said. “They’re hard areas to get to and you know you’re going to pay a price in front of the net, but you’re also going to be rewarded.
“I was lucky I guess today. I only got hit with one. Some days you get hit with more. I had a little chat with her about keeping it lower. All good though.”
Wakefield scored twice with Irwin assisting on both. Erin Ambrose and Sarah Potomak scored their first career goals for Canada.
Emily Clark, Natalie Spooner, Brianne Jenner and Meghan Agosta each contributed a goal. Shannon Szabados made 16 saves for her 17th career shutout for Canada.
Russia’s Maria Sorokina allowed six goals on 35 shots before she was replaced by Nadezhda Alexandrova in the third period. Alexandrova turned away four of six shots in relief.
The Canadians concluded their preliminary round in Pool A with a 1-2 record. They awaited the result of a later game between the United States (2-0) and Finland (1-1) to know their playoff path.
The top two teams in Pool A get a bye to Thursday’s semifinals. The bottom two drop to Tuesday’s quarter-finals against the top two seeds from Pool B. The medal games are Friday.
The Canadians did their part to stay in contention for the bye. Beating Russia by two or more goals gave Canada the best goal differential if the day ended with a three teams tied for second in Pool A at 1-2.
In addition to earning their first win of the tournament Monday, Canada also recovered some confidence after back-to-back losses to open the tournament.
The Canadians scored more goals in the first period than their first two games combined, got their power-play working, and killed off a Russian two-man advantage early in the second.
“This was an opportunity to really define ourselves,” head coach Laura Schuler said. “Their belief in the game plan is critical.
“We talked about scoring goals the right way and the goals that we scored were a result of doing the little details that are important for success.”
After going 0 for 6 on the power play in 4-3 and 2-0 losses to Finland and the U.S. respectively, Canada converted three of seven chances Monday.
“We were being too picky with our opportunities,” Wakefield said. “We just kind of need to throw it at the net, crash the net and screen the goalie. We stuck to the keys of the game and we were able to put a few pucks behind her.”
Irwin’s skill set complements Wakefield’s power game, said Schuler.
“I think Haley Irwin is one of the smartest kids on our team,” Schuler said. “She just does all the little things and the details of the game plan right.
“Haley’s eye-hand co-ordination is unbelievable. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched her tipping shots. She’s incredible in front of the net.
“Putting those two together, I think creates the opportunity for Jen to do what she’s capable of doing.”
One quarter-final matchup was set with Russia (1-2) meeting Germany (2-1 in Pool B) on Tuesday. Sweden, also 2-1 in Pool B, was the other quarter-finalist.