VANCOUVER — Canada is golden again in women’s Olympic hockey.
The Canadian women’s hockey team defended the gold medals won at the 2002 and 2006 Olympic Games with a 2-0 win over archrival U.S. on Thursday at Canada Hockey Place.
Marie-Philip Poulin of Beauceville, Que., the youngest player on the Canadian team at 18, scored a pair of goals in the first period, showing off her soft hands and quick release. Edmonton goaltender Shannon Szabados stopped all 28 shots for the shutout.
Szabados was an intriguing choice in net for her first start in an Olympic or world championship final. Davidson went with the 23-year-old from Edmonton over veterans Charline Labonte, the winning goalie in the 2006 Olympic final, and Kim St. Pierre, the starter in the 2002 championship game.
Szabados showed no rookie nerves to start the game, however. She came out of her net to play the puck and made glove saves with confidence. She kept the Americans off the scoreboard during five-on-three chances at the start of both the first and second periods. U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter made 27 saves.
Centre Meghan Agosta of Ruthven, Ont., was named tournament MVP.
Head coach Melody Davidson built her team with skilled defencemen who could generate scoring chances from the back end. The Canadian women rushed the puck through the neutral zone and went for the stretch pass a few times in the third period.
Canada respected the speed and skill of the U.S., however, and made sure to get a third man back when the U.S. gained control of the puck.
The Americans had to press for goals in the final minutes of the game, which created odd-man chances for Canada. Canada Hockey Place was on its feet in the final minute, anticipating the country’s first hockey gold of these Olympic Games. The Canadian men meet Slovakia in Friday’s semifinal.
The U.S. outshot Canada 14-10 in the second period, but the game remained 2-0 for the home team heading into the third.
The Americans swarmed Canada’s net to open a tense second period. Jayna Hefford shot the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty and then Becky Kellar immediately did the same to give the U.S. a two-man advantage for a minute and a half. The Canadians blocked shots and Szabados kept seeing the puck well to kill off the penalty.
Poulin had Canada Hockey Place rocking in the first period with a pair of goals.
After winning a faceoff in the offensive zone, the puck deflected back to her and she beat Vetter with a low shot away at 16:50.
Thirty-four seconds after Canada killed off their penalty, Jennifer Botterill skated the puck along the boards and sent it back to Poulin at the faceoff circle. She got a quick shot away over Vetter’s shoulder at 13:55.
Canada and the U.S. have met in the final of every world championship. The Canadians have a 9-3 record, but the Americans have won the last two.
And there is little love between the two countries. Kacey Bellamy put an unfriendly glove in Haley Irwin’s face after the Canadian crashed the net and went down in the third period.
Agosta punched Monique Lamoureux after a whistle in the second period and got away with it. When U.S. forward Jocelyne Lamoureux skated to the bench without her helmet early in the game, Irwin flattened her.
Szabados also gave Jenny Potter an unfriendly shove when the veteran forward landed on her late in the first period.
Notes — Canada is 56-35-1 all time versus the U.S. . . . Actor Michael J. Fox, Wayne Gretzky, Canadian men’s coach Mike Babcock and assistant coach Lindy Ruff were among the spectators.