Canadian women roll to second straight 7-0 winPosted: Wednesday February 13, 2002 5:00 PM
Updated: Thursday February 14, 2002 2:42 AM
By Chris Stevenson, SLAM! Sports
SALT LAKE CITY -- Hayley Wickenheiser is regarded as perhaps the best woman's hockey player in the world.
She's playing like it in the women's Olympic tournament.
For Team Canada to perform to its potential, its best players have to be its best players.
Wickenheiser has been that for Team Canada.
She scored a goal and added two assists in Canada's 7-0 win over Russia Wednesday to push Canada to 2-0 in the round-robin portion of the tournament.
Wickenheiser now has three goals and three assists in two games.
She doesn't think she's where she needs to be yet, though, either in this tournament or in her career so Wickenheiser, who has twice attended the Philadelphia Flyers' rookie camp, is considering going to compete in a men's league in Europe next year.
"It's a thought I have. I have to find a place to play at a higher level and to do that, I think I have to play men's hockey somewhere," she said. "I still want to be in the national program. But beating teams 10-0 over the years gets boring. I want a challenge to see at what higher level I can play."
Now, obviously, her focus is on helping Team Canada avenge its loss to the Americans in the gold medal game at Nagano four years ago. Canada continued on that path Wednesday, outshooting the Russians 59-6. Canada has now outscored the opposition 14-0 and outshot them 105-13.
Guess Wickenheiser's got a point about the competition.
When you consider the Russians are the bronze medal winners from the last world championship, you get an idea of the gap and the lack of competition at the world level for players like Wickenheiser.
Her offensive skills are about the best there are in the women's game and she showed why against the Russians. Her goal, her third of the tournament which opened the scoring, was a crafty piece of stickwork off a faceoff to the left of the Russian goal.
Wickenheiser pushed the puck past the Russian centre and then snapped a low shot which beat goaltender Irina Gashennikova under the right pad at 11:37 of the first period.
Later, the three-time Olympian (she played for Canada in hockey in 1998 and in softball in Sydney in 2000), helped spring the puck loose along the right wing boards and Danielle Goyette was permitted to skate into the slot and beat Gashennikova to the blocker side for her first of two on the day.
Wickenheiser, 5-9 and 170 pounds, has the tools. In baseball, she'd be a five-tool player. She is a strong skater with great balance and is difficult to knock off the puck.
Her puck skills were far and away the best on the ice Wednesday. A pass she rifled out of the corner to the far point in the second period was as hard as any of the six shots the Russians put on Canadian goaltender Sami Jo Small, playing in her first game. Kim St-Pierre shut out Kazakhstan in Canada's first game.
Wickenheiser was one of the leaders when Canada's advantage in speed and strength along the boards came to the fore in the second period.
Staying motivated and keep their intensity up is the challenge facing Team Canada in the round robin, which wraps up with a game against Sweden Saturday.
"We're trying to play the same kind of hockey we're going to need when it really counts," said Wickenheiser. "We're trying to move it crisply and keep our intensity up. Sometimes [in games like this], you start taking longer shifts. You don't skate the way you can when you can glide and make a pass.
"I still think we can play better. We can put together three clean periods and get our intensity a bit higher from the start of the game. We're getting closer to the type of hockey we have to play against the Finns and the Americans."
Canada's Dana Antal scored her first of the Olympics just 31 seconds into the second period. Cherie Piper, the player who replaced veteran Nancy Drolet in a controversial move just before the Olympics, scored her second goal of the Games at 9:14 of the second.
Isabelle Chartrand and Jennifer Botterill also scored for Canada.
The Russians, winners of the bronze medal at the 2001 world championships, were upset by Sweden, 3-2, in their opening game and fell to 0-2 and out of contention.
"I think we are behind Canada by one year," said Russian coach Viacheslav Dolgushin, pointing out his country has only four women's club teams.
"Every hockey player in Russia who can play at the international level is on our team today."
None of them are close to Wickenheiser.