Canada’s kids came to play Wednesday at the 4 Nations Cup. The majority of Canada’s scoring in an 8-1 win over Sweden came from the under-22 set, led by 20-year-old Natalie Spooner of Toronto and her hat trick.
Rebecca Johnston scored twice for the host team with Haley Irwin of Thunder Bay, Ont., Vicki Bendus of Wasaga Beach, Ont., and Meaghan Mikkelson of St. Albert, Alta., each contributing a goal for Canada (1-1). Jennifer Wakefield of Pickering, Ont., had four assists and Bendus had three assists.
Bendus, Johnston and Wakefield are 21 and Irwin is 22.
“There’s fresh faces in the program and just to try to prove ourselves on the team at this tournament is a big step in that,” Spooner said.
Therese Sjolander had Sweden’s lone goal, scoring in the first period to temporarily tie the game 1-1.
The U.S. blanked Finland 4-0 in a later game, played at Mile One Centre in St. John’s.
The Americans, who defeated Canada 3-2 in a shootout at Mile One on Tuesday, improved to 2-0.
Megan Duggan led the U.S. with a pair of goals and Molly Schaus earned a 21-save shutout. Jocelyne Lamoureux and Brianna Decker also scored for the Americans.
Finland has a 1-1 record.
All four countries have today off. Canada concludes the preliminary round against Finland, while the U.S. meets Sweden (0-2) on Friday. The two teams with the best records will be in Saturday’s final (TSN2, 7:30 p.m. NT).
All remaining games are at Mile One Centre.
Sweden beat Canada for the first time in history at the Four Nations Cup two years ago in Lake Placid, N.Y., with a 2-1 overtime victory.
Spooner, playing just her seventh career game for the national team Wednesday, was a member of that Canadian team that suffered that loss. She admitted that was on her mind.
“A little bit,” she said. “I knew we had to win today to have a good shot at the final, so there was a little bit of pressure.”
“There’s fresh faces in the program and just to try to prove ourselves on the team at this tournament is a big step in that." - Natalie Spooner
Goaltender Sara Grahn was in Sweden’s net for the historic win for her country and was given the start Wednesday ahead of 2006 Olympic heroine Kim Martin.
But there was no upset brewing this time in front of a full house at the 1,250-seat Clarenville Events Centre. Grahn made 50 saves to Kim St. Pierre’s 20 for Canada.
Spooner was scratched from Tuesday’s lineup against the U.S., so unlike some of her teammates who were playing their second game in as many nights, she had fresh legs.
Spooner, Wakefield and Bendus made up Canada’s youngest forward line and created immediate chemistry despite having never before played together on the national team. Spooner almost had four goals as she hit the post in the first period. Bendus’s goal was her first for the national team.
“Bendus and I had a lot of chemistry together on Ontario’s under-18 team our last two years there,” Wakefield explained.
“We kind of used that and fed off each other.”
The line of Irwin, Johnston and Meghan Agosta was also a force as the trio combined for three of Canada eight goals. Canadian head coach Ryan Walter gave the Spooner and Irwin lines a lot of ice time against Sweden.
“With two games over two nights, we wanted to share the ice time and make sure everyone got a lot of ice time,” he said.
Sweden, Olympic silver medallists in 2006, finished fourth in Vancouver. Like Canada, they retained 13 players from their Olympic squad, but have a new coach.
Peter Elander is now coaching the University of North Dakota women’s team. Niclas Hogberg, who coached Sweden’s under-18 team, is now behind the national team’s bench.