What to know for Canada’s women’s hockey world title defence

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Like the just-completed men’s world juniors, the women’s world championship is taking place at a decidedly un-hockey time of year. It was the same for the women in 2021, when their worlds were moved from April in Nova Scotia to late August in Calgary due to the pandemic.

The wait was worth it for Canada, which snapped the United States’ run of five straight world titles with a dramatic overtime win in the final. Canada went on to reclaim the Olympic gold medal with another victory over their archrivals in February in Beijing.

The Canadians’ status as undisputed queens of women’s hockey will be on the line starting Thursday, when the 2022 women’s worlds open in Denmark. Here’s what to know:

Expect another Canada-U.S. showdown in the final.

The cross-border rivals have met in 19 of the 20 women’s world championship finals, and no other country has ever won one. They’ve also squared off in six of the seven Olympic women’s hockey finals, and between them won all of those too.

The only time another nation really came close to stealing a major championship from Canada or the U.S. came at the 2019 worlds in Finland. With goalie Noora Räty playing out of her mind, the hosts upset Canada in the semis, then appeared to score the overtime winner in the final vs. the United States (how do you say Miracle on Ice in Finnish?). But a lengthy video review resulted in the goal being overturned for netminder interference, and the Americans went on to win in a shootout.

WATCH | Poulin seals 2021 world gold medal win for Canada:

Poulin scores beautiful OT winner to clinch Canada gold at the worlds

Marie-Philip Poulin scored a fantastic goal to give Canada the 3-2 win and their first gold medal at the worlds since 2012.

Does Marie-Philip Poulin have more OT magic in her?

This is getting ridiculous, frankly. Poulin, the 31-year-old Canadian captain and clutch scorer extraordinaire, has now done the following in her unparalleled international career:

*2010: Scored both goals in Canada’s 2-0 win over the United States in the Olympic gold-medal game in Vancouver.

*2014: Scored the late tying goal and the overtime winner in the classic 2014 Olympic final vs. the Americans in Sochi.

*2021: Scored the OT winner in the world-championship final vs. the U.S. in Calgary.

WATCH | Poulin’s golden goal hat trick puts her into uncharted territory:

Marie-Philip Poulin’s golden goal hat trick puts her into uncharted territory

Where does Poulin’s achievement rank in the world of sports? Rob Pizzo breaks it down.

*2022: Scored twice, including what turned out to be the winner, in Canada’s 3-2 victory over the Americans in the Olympic final in Beijing.

To summarize, Poulin has scored the decisive goal in the gold-medal game at three of the four Olympics in which she’s competed. She’s also the only player in hockey history to score in four consecutive Olympic gold-medal games (racking up seven goals in those contests). Her OT winner last summer in Calgary gave Poulin her second world title, to go with six silvers and a bronze.

And Poulin is showing no signs of slowing down — on or off the ice. In Beijing last winter, she potted six goals in seven games and finished second in the tournament scoring race with 17 points. In June, she took a part-time job as a player-development consultant with the Montreal Canadiens. Read more about Poulin here.

WATCH | Poulin leads Canada to gold medal in Beijing:

‘Captain Clutch’ Poulin scores twice to lead Canada to another Olympic gold medal

Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice and had three points, including the Olympic gold medal winning goal for a third time, as Canada defeated the United States 3-2 in the final game of Beijing 2022.

Most — but not all — of Canada’s core from the Beijing Olympics is back.

Along with Poulin, the returnees include Olympic MVP Brianne Jenner, who topped the tournament in goals; Sarah Nurse, the leader in points; and starting goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens. Also keep an eye on 22-year-old forward Sarah Fillier, who scored eight goals in seven games in her Olympic debut.

Four others from the Olympic squad — Rebecca Johnston, Mélodie Daoust, Natalie Spooner and Claire Thompson — are out for various personal reasons. Spooner is pregnant, while Thompson, who was named to the Olympic tournament’s all-star team, is starting medical school.

Daoust’s absence is a big one. The 30-year-old forward was the MVP and leading scorer (in both goals and points) at last year’s worlds before getting injured in Canada’s Olympic opener vs. Switzerland. She managed to return for the semifinals and played in the final vs. the U.S., helping secure her second Olympic gold. Read more about Canada’s roster for the world championship here

The future of women’s pro hockey remains uncertain.

Poulin is among the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association stars hoping that a new league for them will finally get off the ground. The PWHPA, whose members do not want to play in the existing Premier Hockey Federation (formerly the National Women’s Hockey League) has an agreement with tennis great Billie Jean King and Los Angeles Dodgers chairman Mark Walter to work on setting up their own league.

The tentative plan includes six teams and an average salary of $55,000 US. But there’s no concrete launch date, so the PWHPA will stage another of its Dream Gap barnstorming tours starting in October. Read more about that and the hopes for a new league here.

Canada’s schedule:

The defending champs play their first game Thursday at 1 p.m. ET vs. 2021 bronze medallist Finland. Then they take on Switzerland on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET and Japan on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET before closing the group stage next Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET vs. the United States.

How the tournament works:

All five teams in Canada’s group are guaranteed a spot in the Sept. 1 quarter-finals, where they’ll be joined by the top three finishers from Group B (the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Denmark and Sweden). The Swedes were relegated to a lower division before being promoted as a replacement for Russia, which was banned from the tournament for its invasion of Ukraine.

Barring a stunning turn of events, Canada and the U.S. will play in separate semifinals on Sept. 3 before squaring off in the final on Sept. 4.

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