JAIME ARON,AP Sports Writer
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Canada is halfway there in its bid to win two gold medals in hockey at home.
The Canadian women beat the United States 2-0 on Thursday for their third straight Olympic title. In a showdown between the sport's two powers, Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice and Shannon Szabados made 28 saves as the Canadian women extended their Olympic winning streak to 15.
The streak dates to the 1998 Nagano Games, when the United States beat Canada for the gold medal.
Thursday's game was played before a sea of red and white-adorned, cowbell-ringing, maple leaf flag-waving fans who packed Canada Hockey Place. Also in attendance were Wayne Gretzky, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and members of the Canadian men's team, which faces Slovakia on Friday in a semifinal.
Earlier in the day, Finland beat Sweden 3-2 in overtime to win the bronze. Finland hadn't won a medal since taking bronze when women's hockey debuted at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
The Finns celebrated as if they'd won gold, throwing their gear and sharing a hug. Finland President Tarja Halonen, sporting a team jersey, happily looked down from a luxury box.
Still, there's such a drop in quality after the top two teams that there's been speculation about cutting women's hockey from the Olympics. Unlikely, says IOC president Jacques Rogge, who added that the sport will get another Winter Games or two for the rest of the world to catch up.
“Women's hockey is a growing sport,” Rogge said. “There is no doubt that in the future women's hockey will be a hit.”
Billy Demong and Johnny Spillane finished 1-2 in a Nordic combined race Thursday, a surprising medal haul in a sport that's been part of the Winter Olympics since 1924 but never had an American medalist until these games.
Spillane became the first on Sunday — and now he has three, all silver. Demong's victory is the first gold and his second overall. Both were part of a second-place finish in the team event Tuesday.
“I think it has been building over the past five to 10 years,” Demong said. “We knew we had three guys who could medal on any given day.”
This race involved ski jumping on the large hill, then a 10-kilometer race. Weather was another obstacle.
A driving, wet snow and tail wind late in the ski jumping portion ruined the distances for many of the top competitors, forcing them to start way back in the cross-country race. Demong and Spillane were among those to win the weather “lottery,” as World Cup leader Jason Lamy Chappuis of France called it.
The Americans weren't the only lucky ones, though. And Demong did rise from sixth to first, outlasting Spillane and Bernhard Gruber of Austria after they distanced themselves from everyone else. So don't put too much of an asterisk on this.
“These Olympics are the combination of years of hard work and hard breaks,” Demong said.
This pair of medals jumped the U.S. count to eight golds and 30 overall, nudging closer to the record hauls of 10 gold of 34 total, both set at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
Germany had a 1-2 finish in giant slalom to reach eight golds and 26 overall medals.
Norway's Marit Bjoergen became the top medal-winner thus far, becoming the first with three golds and with four overall medals by leading the winning team in the women's cross-country relay.
Three more gold medals were to be awarded Thursday, with Kim Yu-na taking a commanding lead into the women's figure skating free skate; a clash of titans in women's hockey, the United States vs. Canada; and defending world champion Ryan St. Onge and Jeret “Speedy” Peterson taking flight in men's aerials.
Julia Mancuso was third fastest in Thursday's second run of the giant slalom, which wasn't enough to overcome a frustrating performance in the first run a day earlier.
“It just wasn't enough,” said Mancuso, who finishes these Winter Olympics with a pair of silver medals.
Viktoria Rebensburg won the race, giving Germany a winner in it for the first time since 1956. She was highly unlikely to be the drought-buster as she'd never won a major event.
“Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable,” she said.
Also, Lindsey Vonn plans to ski the slalom Friday with a hard, plastic brace protecting her right pinkie. She broke it during a tumble in the giant slalom Wednesday that left her “a ball of hurt right now,” according to her husband, Thomas.
American bobsledder Bill Schuffenhauer was detained and released by Canadian police after an argument with his fiancee, a person with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press.
Schuffenhauer, a silver medalist in 2002, resumed Olympic training Thursday and is expected to compete in Friday's four-man bobsled.
Police released him after finding no evidence of a crime, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
“I don't foresee any way that he would not race, regardless of how things progress,” said Darrin Steele, chief executive of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.
Bjoergen joined the growing trend of skiers pausing on the way to the finish to grab a flag. Like the others who did it, she was well ahead.
Norway won its first women's relay gold since 1984, having settled for silver five times.
Bjoergen also won the individual sprint and 15K pursuit, and took bronze in the 10K freestyle.
The Americans were 12th.
In the ongoing dispute over whether the NHL will let its players participate in the 2014 Sochi Games, the head of Russia's pro hockey league says it would be a serious mistake for the NHL to stand in their way.
Alex Medvedev said he met three times in Vancouver with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Bettman is concerned about shutting down the NHL season during the Olympics. He also has doubts about an Olympics in which the hockey would be played at a time when many North American fans would be asleep.
VANCOUVER: LUGER'S LEGACY
IOC president Jacques Rogge says the death of a Georgian luger will forever be associated with the Vancouver Games, just as the slaying of Israeli athletes remains a legacy of the Munich Olympics.
Rogge said the IOC accepted a “moral responsibility” for the tragedy but not legal responsibility.
“There will always be risk in sport, but it has to be reasonable and the athletes take a lot of risk themselves,” he said.
He also expects Russian organizers to make sure the sliding track is safe for the 2014 Sochi Games.
“The IOC has been very clear in saying to the Russians: Please deliver us a track that will not be hazardous,” Rogge said.
The Norwegian men — and their popular, gaudy, diamond-print trousers — will meet Canada in the gold-medal final after beating Switzerland 7-5. Canada is attempting to become the first Olympic curling team to go unbeaten at the games since the sport returned as a medal event in 1998. It earned its own spot in the final by beating Sweden 6-3.
In the women's final, it'll be Sweden vs. Canada in the women's finals.
The defending gold medalists from Sweden KO'd the reigning world champion Chinese in one semifinal, and the hosts took out Switzerland on a late shot.