By Jimmy Golen
The Associated Press
SOCHI, Russia — The United States and Canada will play for the women’s hockey gold medal for the fourth time in the five Olympics since the sport was added to the Winter Games.
“We feel like we’ve prepared all year for this game,” said Natalie Spooner, who scored twice Monday in a 3-1 win against Switzerland to put Canada in the Olympic final.
The U.S. joined Canada by beating Sweden 6-1. The teams have two days off to prepare for a rematch of the 1998, 2002 and 2010 gold medal games.
“The last four years, that’s been our goal,” said U.S. forward Julie Chu, a four-time Olympian who has two silver medals and a bronze. “We’re going for a different color this time.”
Megan Bozek and Brianna Decker each had a goal and two assists as the Americans outshot Sweden 70-9. The U.S. has medaled in every Winter Games since women’s hockey was added to the Olympic program in 1998, and just once — with a loss to Sweden in the 2006 semifinals — failed to reach the championship game.
Canada, the three-time defending champion that has played in every Olympic final, will have a chance for a fourth straight gold after beating Switzerland.
Not since the inaugural tournament in Nagano have the Americans beaten Canada in the Olympics, losing in the championship game in 2002 and ’10 and again in the preliminary round of the Sochi Games on Wednesday.
Canada and the United States played seven times in the run-up to the Olympics, with the Americans going 4-3.
“We’ve played a lot of great games against them,” Spooner said. “It’s going to be another one of those in the final.”
There are 11 players on the U.S. roster who played in the gold medal game in Vancouver, but Chu is the only one who was also on the team in Salt Lake City or Turin. Coach Katey Stone would like to see her get the gold medal.
“It’s about time isn’t it? It’s time,” said Stone, who was also Chu’s coach at Harvard. “Julie’s been everything to the program, she’s been a youngster, she’s been a veteran ... she’s been a mother to the younger kids. Kids like that don’t come around all the time. She’s a special one. I certainly hope she gets what she wants.”
The U.S. scored five times in 47 shots on starting Sweden goalie Valentina Wallner before she was replaced in the second period by Kim Martin Hasson. The backup was the winning goaltender when Sweden upset the Americans in Turin and she stopped 22 of 23 shots.
“We took Valentina out because she had a busy day at work,” said assistant coach Leif Boork, whose team will face Switzerland for third place. “We wanted to make a decision for the next game, the bronze medal game.”
U.S. goalie Jesse Vetter needed just eight saves for the victory.
Shannon Szabados stopped 21 shots for Canada. Melodie Daoust also scored for the three-time defending champions, and five-time Winter Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser had a pair of assists to extend her Olympic career points record.
Florence Schelling, who went to Northeastern University in Boston, made 45 saves for Switzerland in what was the closest game against Canada in Swiss Olympic history.
“I think for us, it was a great game,” said Swiss coach Rene Kammerer, who described himself as “happy to be disappointed.”
“Months ago, if we lose to Canada just 3-1, it would be a great game for us,” he said. “I’m disappointed to lose. But, hey, it’s Canada, one of the best teams in the world, and we know it.”