Young players lead Canada to another gold

CanWest News Service
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Shannon Szabados made Melody Davidson look awfully smart Thursday and now hockey coaches across the country just might take their sweet time picking their starting goalie every game.

Davidson, the Canadian coach with a penchant for keeping quiet about who is minding the net for her each game, wouldn't come clean publicly about Szabados getting the call against the archrival Americans in the Olympic gold-medal affair until game time.

Canadian players celebrate a goal by Marie-Philip Poulin (right) in the first period of their Olympic women's hockey goal-medal game against the United States Thursday in Vancouver. Poulin had both Canadian goals in a 2-0 win. Photo by Canwest News Servi

Vancouver -

Shannon Szabados made Melody Davidson look awfully smart Thursday and now hockey coaches across the country just might take their sweet time picking their starting goalie every game.



Davidson, the Canadian coach with a penchant for keeping quiet about who is minding the net for her each game, wouldn't come clean publicly about Szabados getting the call against the archrival Americans in the Olympic gold-medal affair until game time.



It seemed to work as the Edmonton native was absurdly good, making 28 saves in leading Canada to a 2-0 win -and its third straight Olympic gold - before a crowd in excess of 16,000 at Canada Hockey Place.



"My teammates were unbelievable today," said the 23-year-old stopper. "We played a great game and this is an incredible moment."



Szabados' best save may have come at 18:48 of the second period, when she flung her glove hand around behind her and knocked away at a Kelli Stack chance.



"It was unbelievable," said forward Jayne Hefford. "I don't know if it's hit us yet. This year and the Olympics has been incredible."



Szabados, the youngest of Canada's three netminders, didn't get a single minute of ice time at the IIHF world championship in April, as Davidson opted to go with veterans Kim St-Pierre and Charline Labonte. Canada lost the final there 4-1, although Labonte was named the tournament's top goalie.



Davidson's game plan gave Canada its eighth gold medal of these Games.



"It's so special, I don't know if it has sunk in yet," said veteran Hayley Wickenheiser. "You grow up in Canada, you know the expectations.



"Just to win on home ice, the crowd, the family. . ."



Szabados wasn't the only youngster shining for the home side Thursday.



Forward Marie-Philip Poulin, 18, had both goals for the winners.



There was talk heading in that - given the improvement in both the Canadians' and Americans' games - this could be the greatest women's match ever. It was far from a how-to video technique wise, but it was an example of grit.



Canada killed off all five American power plays, including a lengthy pair of five-on-three advantages. The U.S. had come into the game with a man-advantage unit working at 59 per cent (13-of-22) in the tournament.



Jessie Vetter, who had backstopped the Americans to wins in the last two world championships, made 26 saves for the U.S.



The Canadians looked disjointed and nervous early on. They had trouble getting open for passes, and, when they did manage to find some free space, pucks were fired into feet. They had two early power plays and mustered very little.



But all they really needed on this night was the play of Szabados.



Defenceman Carla MacLeod of Calgary said the win on home soil was sweeter than four years ago in Turin.



"It feels better don't kid yourself," she said. "Look at it out there. This is unbelievable to have this many family and friends.



"We wanted it really bad."



The three-peat Canadian club includes St. Pierre, Kellar, Wickenheiser, Cherie Piper, Colleen Sostorics, Caroline Ouellette, Jayna Hefford and Jennifer Botterill.

Organizations: Canada Hockey Place

Geographic location: Canada, Vancouver, Edmonton U.S. Calgary Turin

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