Canada 4 Finland 2
KERAVA, Finland — The Canadian women’s hockey team prepared for this.
In their third road game in four nights, Canada doubled host Finland 4-2 at the Four Nations Cup hockey tournament in Kerava.
Fatigue wasn’t a factor, said Sarah Vaillancourt of Sherbrooke, Que., because Canada has played three road games in three nights before in the Alberta Midget Hockey League.
“This year is all about travelling and being ready to play wherever we are,” said Vaillancourt, who scored twice for Canada. “That’s why we have such a heavy schedule this year with the midget triple-A boys and I think it has prepared us really well. We’re not exhausted. We could use a day off, but if we had another game, I’m sure we could push through.”
Meghan Agosta of Ruthven, Ont., and Jayna Hefford of Kingston, Ont., also scored for the Canadians, who improved to 2-0 in their final international tournament before the 2010 Olympics open Feb. 12 in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
Hayley Wickenheiser of Shaunavon, Sask., contributed a pair of assists and goaltender Shannon Szabados of Edmonton made 15 saves for the win.
Canada beat Sweden 4-2 in an exhibition game in Stockholm on Sunday before shutting them out 4-0 to open the tournament Tuesday.
Karoliina Rantamaki and Saara Tuominen replied for the Finns and goaltender Noora Raty stopped 37 of 41 shots.
The U.S. edged Sweden 3-2 in Vierumaki and is also 2-0. American captain Natalie Darwitz scored a pair of goals and her team outshot the Swedes 52-18. Swedish goaltender Kim Martin held her team in the game with 49 saves.
Canada, winner of the last two Olympic gold medals, and the Americans, the defending world champions, meet Friday in Vierumaki in a preview of Saturday’s championship game.
Canada has won two exhibition games in a row against the U.S., but was 2-6 in their previous eight games versus their archrival.
“It’s one step closer to the Olympics every time,” Vaillancourt said of playing the Americans. “The games we’ve won against them are definitely confidence-boosters, but at the same time, we know every game is going to be different, the referees are going to be different, we’re overseas.
“We don’t know how everything is going to work out so we just have to be ready for whatever.”
Twenty-six players are trying out for 21 jobs on Canada’s Olympic roster. Head coach Melody Davidson has not yet said when she’ll name her team.
The Canadian women will play over 60 games before the Olympics and over half will be against midget triple-A teams of male players between the ages of 15 and 18.
“We’re playing pretty well,” Davidson said. “We just need to get some rest and get more mentally sharp, which comes with a little bit of rest. That’s the beauty of the midget games. We’ve done it before.”
She’s giving her players a day off from the ice Thursday.
Finland has never beaten Canada, but in their first game under new coach Pekka Hamalainen, they upset the U.S. 3-2 to open the Hockey Canada Cup in September.
“With their new coach, they’ve put in more of an aggressive system all over the ice,” Davidson said. “Their goaltender played well and a typical European team, they plug up the middle so well.
“We had to fight like cats and dogs to get each goal we got, but I was happy overall with our offence. We created lots of chances and they had to play well for us not to score a lot.”
Canada fell behind 2-1 in the opening minute of the second period before Agosta and Hefford scored power-play goals to take a lead into the third period.
“We let in two goals and that was a lot to let in against them, but I still think overall we played really well,” Vaillancourt said. “We had the confidence we were going to get back even though we were losing 2-1.”