As the Harvard women’s hockey team enters the final weekend of its regular season entangled in a tight race for postseason home-ice advantage, five of its alumnae are playing for a different kind of hockey prize.
The Olympic women’s hockey tournament opened on Saturday in Vancouver, and Americans Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04, Julie Chu ’06-’07, and Caitlin Cahow ’07-’08 and Canadians Jennifer Botterill ’02-’03 and Sarah Vaillancourt ’08-’09 are skating for Olympic gold.
The Americans and Canadians are far and away the top two teams in the world and are both heavily favored to advance to the gold-medal game—though as the US team learned in 2006, being favored is not enough, as the Americans were upset by Sweden in the semifinals and had to settle for bronze. But through three days of competition, both squads are living up to the hype.
Canada set the tone in front of its hometown crowd on Saturday with an 18-0 shellacking of Slovakia, the biggest offensive output in Olympic history. Vaillancourt had a goal and two assists against Slovakia and followed up that performance with a goal and an assist in a 10-1 win over Switzerland yesterday.
Botterill added an assist on the Canadians’ final goal in Saturday’s rout.
Not to be outdone, the Americans cruised to a 12-1 win over China on Sunday afternoon. Harvard players bookended the scoring for the US squad, with Ruggiero opening the game with a breakaway backhand early in the first before Chu capped the game with a tally off a rebound from American captain Natalie Darwitz.
Chu also had two assists on the afternoon.
The US team takes on Russia this afternoon at 5:30 pm Eastern time. Both the Canadians and the Americans still have their toughest preliminary matchup ahead of them—Canada plays Sweden tomorrow, and the US plays Finland on Thursday. Those four teams are favored to advance to the medal round.