Collision Course

Following a weekend of blowouts, the U.S. and Canada are each a win away from the women’s hockey gold medal game

The predicted showdown between former Harvard roommates Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04 and Jennifer Botterill ’02-’03 and their respective U.S. and Canadian Olympic women’s hockey teams is just one day away from materializing.

The U.S. and Canadian teams completed the formality of sweeping their respective Olympic round-robin pools Saturday. The last formality—winning their semifinal games—is set for today. Canada will take on Finland at 1 p.m. and the U.S. will meet Sweden at 6:30 p.m.

If Saturday’s results are any indication, the U.S. and Canada have too much talent—from Harvard, in particular—for the Scandinavian countries to stay close.

Against Sweden, Botterill turned what had been a close game in the first period into an 11-0 Canada blowout. She scored two of the first three Canadian goals to spark the romp.

And while all the hype surrounding the United States’ 5-0 victory over Finland centered on the hat trick of 18-year-old Natalie Darwitz, it was primary assists from the Harvard defensemen—Ruggiero and A.J. Mleczko ’97-’99—that put Darwitz in position to score the Americans’ first two goals.

The two teams have similar outlooks going into this afternoon’s games. They both know better than to look past their opponents, but they also know that today is their last chance to iron out their kinks in time for the gold medal game.

Canada 11, Sweden 0

Had it not been for Botterill, Saturday night’s Canada-Sweden game might have been vastly different. Her first goal proved to be all Canada would need as it went into the first intermission leading 1-0. But it was Botterill’s second goal—Canada’s third—which crushed Sweden’s spirits.

That goal came on the kind of play that only Botterill can make with consistency. As Canadian defenseman Geraldine Heaney took a high slap shot from the point, Botterill rose her stick to eye-level and redirected the puck accurately down through the legs of Swedish goaltender Annica Ahlen.

Botterill had scored a goal just like that one in Canada’s 7-0 win over Russia, but this one was from even further outside the crease.

Botterill didn’t think her goals of this variety had been anything spectacular, but rather the result of her coordination building as the game progresses.

“I just did what I could,” Botterill said.

Canada’s first goal was a familiar combination—Tammy Shewchuk ’00-’01 to Botterill.

Shewchuk set up Botterill one-on-one with the Swedish left defender, who stood like a post as Botterill skated around her for the breakaway. Moving in on Ahlen, Botterill came across the slot and buried the puck inside the left post for the score.

Canada went on to score four more goals in the second and six more in the third—including two in the final 30 seconds—and outshot Sweden 70-22. Canadian goaltender Kim St. Pierre, the McGill standout, earned the shutout despite tough point-blank challenges from Swedish forward Maria Rooth, last year’s NCAA Frozen Four MVP from Minnesota-Duluth.

Botterill assisted on the tenth Canadian goal, which came in the game’s final minute. Holding the puck at the right half-boards, she found teammate Dana Antal cross-ice on the left doorstop for the easy finish. After the score, Shewchuk patted Antal’s shoulder, turned back to Botterill and gave her a sharp nod of approval.