Left in second, again

The pressure of the 2010 Olympics on Canadian coaches emerged when women’s hockey coach Melody Davidson suggested she could lose her job after losing 4-1 to the U.S. in Sunday’s world championship final.

Meghan Duggan celebrates USA’s third goal in front of Canadian goalie Charline Labonte as the Americans rolled to a 4-1 win and the gold medal at the World Women Hockey Championship on Sunday.

U.S. 4 Canada 1

HAMEENLINNA, Finland — The pressure of the 2010 Olympics on Canadian coaches emerged when women’s hockey coach Melody Davidson suggested she could lose her job after losing 4-1 to the U.S. in Sunday’s world championship final.

The usually stoic Davidson was devastated by Canada’s performance because her team had performed well at the world championship prior to the final. The Canadians had beaten the U.S. 2-1 in Friday’s playoff game, but were outplayed Sunday.

“Coaching is coaching and if you don’t perform you don’t go on,” Davidson said. “If we’re not going to perform in the final game, that’s on my shoulders and we have to be able to perform. If we can’t, maybe Hockey Canada has to look at a change.

“There’s no excuses for that performance out there today. None whatsoever.”

Davidson, from Oyen, is under contract to coach the Canadian women at the Olympics in Vancouver next February. She had Canada so well prepared for the 2006 Olympics that their gold-medal looked easy and she followed that up with a world championship in 2007.

Davidson was general manager of the program last year when current assistant coach Peter Smith was head coach and Canada lost its world title to the U.S. in Harbin, China.

The women’s hockey team has perhaps the best odds of winning an Olympic gold medal for the host country, but defending champions losing four of their last six games to the U.S. makes the top of the podium look less certain.

“Our goal is still to be in that gold-medal game in Vancouver and to work hard to bring home gold there for Canada,” Davidson said. “This was a bit of a step back in my mind.

“I want to coach this team and I want to be with these players, but since we made my job full time we’ve only won one gold medal and that was in 2007.”

The Americans won their first back-to-back world titles and are 3-0 versus Canada in their last three finals.

“To have that feeling two years in a row, there’s nothing like it,” U.S. captain Natalie Darwitz said. “It’s going to be a lot different next year. The stakes are going to be higher.

“When next season starts, it’s a whole new ball game.”

The U.S. swarmed the Canadians in all three zones of the ice Sunday and took away time and space from an offence that had outscored the opposition 30-2 prior to the final.

Canada was forced into low percentage passes in the neutral and defensive zones and turned the puck over several times.

In contrast to Friday’s game, when the U.S. was short-handed for much of it, Norwegian referee Aina Hove didn’t call one penalty against the Americans and just two on Canada.

The ref didn’t call anything so the physicality of the game was there and we didn’t match it,” Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser said. “We had too many passengers. We couldn’t get pucks through to the net and generate any offence.

“They pressured all over the ice and we didn’t handle it well.”

U.S. defenceman Caitlin Cahow scored a pair of goals, including one just 24 seconds after the opening face-off. Meghan Duggan also scored and Hilary Knight added an empty-net goal.

Winnipeg’s Jennifer Botterill replied for Canada in front of 3,046 at Patria Arena.

U.S. goaltender Jessie Vetter made 39 saves, but she was able to see most of those shots and Canada didn’t get after rebounds. Vetter is now 4-for-4 versus Canada in as many games.

Charline Labonte of Boisbriand, Que., stopped 26 shots in her first start in a world championship final. The one questionable goal on her part was the Americans’ second when she was beaten by Duggan’s high wrist shot.

Defenceman Carla MacLeod of Calgary was named the tournament MVP with two goals and six assists in five games. She found little solace in the honour in the face of two straight world championship losses to Canada’s archrival.

“It’s two-fold now. It’s double-whammy,” MacLeod said. “There’s not many good emotions going through my body right now. ”

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