Leading up to the Winter Olympics, it's always Canada's men's hockey team who gets all the hype. With all the talented NHL players they have on their roster, there is constant talk of how good they are and how well they will do. While the men's team has been strong winning two gold medals in the last three Winter Olympics, it's the women's team who has been dominant. Led by veteran forward and captain Hayley Wickenheiser, this year's team is trying to continue its impressive play.
Canada's women's Olympic hockey team has won three straight gold medals. In 2002, they defeated the United States in Salt Lake City. In 2006, they defeated Sweden in Turin and in 2010 they defeated the United States in Vancouver. They have dominated at the Olympic level and are showing no signs of slowing down.
During the first round of play in 2010, they outscored the likes of Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland 41-2 in three games. In the semi-finals they defeated Finland 5-0, clinching their spot in the gold medal game. Needless to say, they cruised to the final thanks to a high-offensive attack and solid goaltending. In the final, they defeated the United States 2-0, capturing their third straight gold medal.
In this year's Olympics, Canada has been paired in "Group A" with Finland, Switzerland, and the United States. "Group B" consists of Germany, Japan, Russia and Sweden. They will play one game against each team within their group and then be ranked based on their performance.
Their first game will take place on February 8 against Switzerland. Games against Finland (February 10) and the United States (February 12) will follow. After group play, they will either be placed in the semi-final game or the classification round depending how they do in their first three games. While Finland and the United States could present some problems for Canada, we fully expect Canada to once again go on to the semi-final.
Depending on the matchups in the later rounds, a Canada vs. United States final seems likely for the second straight Olympics. Sweden would be the only other team that would provide a challenge to either team and could end up in the final instead. However, when it's all said and done, we fully expect Canada's women's hockey team to win their fourth straight Olympic gold medal this year in Sochi, Russia, continuing their dominance on the biggest stage.
This year's team consists of 12 players from 2010's gold medal winning team, but the team as a whole is a bit younger. If they do happen to lose and fail to capture gold, most will point to the youth factor as being the main reason. It will be interesting to see if the combination of youth and experience will lead them to a fourth straight Olympic gold medal or if it will be their downfall. Time will only tell. We will find out in just over a month when the 22nd Winter Olympics get under way.
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