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Revenge best served gold?

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Americans remember home loss to Canada

No one knows what the Canadian women’s hockey team is facing Thursday night better than four of its rivals from the United States.

Angela Ruggiero, Julie Chu, Natalie Darwitz and Jenny Potter remember all too well that frustrating day in Salt Lake City in 2002. They alone remain from the American team that played Canada for a gold medal on home ice that year, when the Canadians joyously skated away with a 3-1 win in front of a hostile crowd.

Women's hockey

» The United States last won gold at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano — the first time women’s hockey was contested in the Olympics.

» Canada won gold at both the Salt Lake City and Torino Games and has won nine world championships since 1990.

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» Scandinavian rivals Sweden and Finland play for the bronze medal at 2 p.m. on Thursday. The Swedes took silver in Torino. Finland last won a medal with bronze in Nagano.

The United States can repay the favor when it faces Canada in the gold medal game at Canada Hockey Place in downtown Vancouver at 6 p.m. It is the third time in four Olympic Games that the two countries have played for gold in women’s hockey.

“We’ve spent six months preparing. In the last three or four games we’ve still been able to work on a lot of things and get ourselves used to the Olympics environment,” said Chu, a forward with two goals and four assists in the tournament. “With such a young team we want to make sure we have our players playing in front of these crowds and getting used to some pressure.”

The United States faltered in Torino with a semifinal loss to Sweden and left its counterpart waiting in the final. And the gap between the two countries seems to have widened since. Canada has won four exhibition games in a row against the Americans and seven of the last 10 overall.

“They’re a great team, so you have to make sure you’re not letting down at all because they will capitalize on that,” Chu said. “We need to put the puck on the net and make sure we create some action in front of the goalie.”

The United States has outscored its opponents 40-2 in four games and is the two-time defending world champion. Both Potter — a forward who is the team’s leading scorer in the tournament with six goals — and Ruggiero, a defenseman, are playing in their fourth Olympics. Canada has been even better so far with a scoring margin of 46-2, including a 5-0 win over Finland in the semifinals.

“But it’s not really about focusing on them,” American forward Hilary Knight said. “It’s focusing on ourselves and making sure we’re prepared because the only ones that can really beat us are ourselves.”

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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