Are U.S. and Canada on golden collision course in hockey?

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No matter how many times they say it – and they’ve said it plenty in the past few days – members of the United States women’s hockey team will have a tough time arguing there are more gold-medal contenders than two when their Olympic tournament starts Saturday in Sochi.

But here’s star forward Amanda Kessel trying to argue it anyway: “It’s not only Canada that we have to beat.”

And here’s coach Katey Stone: “It’s an eight-team tournament as far as we’re concerned. We’ve got a game on Saturday against Finland, and we’re not looking past that. The last game we didn’t win was against Finland in the Four Nations Cup, and there’s not a player in that locker room that doesn’t remember that.”

True, the U.S. did lose to Finland in November, thanks to a 58-save performance by Golden Gophers goalie Noora Raty. However, there’s a reason most news stories included the word “stunned” to describe what the Finns did to their opponents in that 3-1 victory.

It sure didn’t look like “an eight-team tournament” on Tuesday when the U.S. scrimmaged with Germany. They didn’t keep an official score, but roughly speaking, it was a lot for the U.S. to not much, if any, for the overmatched Germans, who appeared beyond exhausted by the end of it. Even a first-time hockey observer would have noticed the enormous discrepancy in talent and execution.

In international women’s hockey, it’s the U.S., Canada, then everyone else. Should one of those teams from the “everyone else” category beat one of the big two here in Sochi, something fairly extraordinary has happened.

Given the hierarchy in women’s hockey, it’s no surprise the pair of powerhouses has developed a fierce rivalry. In December, the two sides had a much-publicized line brawl in Grand Forks. And that wasn’t their first punch-up in the last few years either.

VIDEO: Julie Chu explains why the U.S.-Canada rivalry is so good

Kessel – the younger sister of Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel — isn’t expecting any of that in the Olympics, though.

“I don’t think you’ll see any fighting here,” she said. “I think people know what’s at stake, and it’s important to stay out of the box.”

Stone, on the other hand, didn’t completely count out the possibility, if that’s the way Canada wants to play.

“That was a controlled response in North Dakota, and our kids are going to try to control as many situations as they can on the ice,” Stone said. “So we’re going to play our game, but we’re prepared to play any game we have to play.”

Fisticuffs aside, Canada has won the last three Olympic gold medals, including the last one four years ago in Vancouver, where the hosts came away with a 2-0 victory in the final game.

For U.S. captain Meghan Duggan, that’s a big part of the motivation this time around.

“When you come up short, it doesn’t feel good,” said Duggan.

“I know for those of us that have been on teams in the past that have been unsuccessful against Canada, that burns in your heart every single day. How we prepare ourselves this year, how we train, everything we’ve done on the ice, off the ice, is in preparation to come out of this tournament with a gold medal.”

Kessel concurred: “We’re here to win gold and nothing else.”

The U.S. and Canada are guaranteed at least one meeting, a preliminary round match-up on Wednesday, Feb. 12.

After that, it’s likely both teams will receive a bye to separate semi-final games on Feb. 17.

The gold-medal game would then loom next, on Feb. 20.

Final World Cup Alpine skiing races canceled

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ARE, Sweden (AP) — Viktoria Rebensburg won her third season title in the giant slalom on Sunday without hitting the slopes at the World Cup finals.

Strong winds forced the cancellation of the season-ending GS while the German skier led the standings by 92 points from world champion Tessa Worley of France, who won the title last season. With a win worth 100 points, Rebensburg was a strong pre-race favorite to wrap up the title.

The last men’s slalom was also canceled, but that didn’t affect the final standings because Marcel Hirscher had already locked up the overall and discipline titles two weeks ago.

Both races were called off shortly before their respective starts as gusts made conditions on the hill potentially unsafe for the skiers. According to FIS rules, events at World Cup finals cannot be rescheduled.

Rebensburg, the Olympic GS gold medalist in 2010, also won the World Cup GS title in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

“It’s really something special. It’s been a few years now since my last globe. I am very proud that I managed to win it again,” said Rebensburg, who struggled with injuries in recent seasons.

She ruptured ligaments in her left knee three years ago and fractured the tibial plateau in her right leg just before the start of last season.

“Every globe has a special meaning but this one is more emotional because of the time in-between,” Rebensburg said. “I know what’s behind winning a globe. You have to be consistent throughout a whole season.”

In the overall standings, Rebensburg finished third behind winner Mikaela Shiffrin and runner-up Wendy Holdener of Switzerland.

Shiffrin, who had secured her second straight overall title last week, wrote on Twitter that she agreed with the decision to call off the last event of the season.

“Ahhhhhhh shoot! The race is canceled! But it’s really windy up here so probably a good call,” the American said.

Shiffrin finished the season on 1,773 points, 130 more than last season when she won her maiden overall title. Holdener was the only other skier to gather more than 1,000 points this season — 1,168.

The men’s overall champion also applauded the cancellation.

“If you see the wind and how the slalom gates are moving, you don’t have to talk about a fair race or a quality race,” said Hirscher, who missed out on the chance to set a World Cup record by winning his 14th race of the season.

“That’s not the important thing,” he said. “It’s the right decision.”

After the cancellation of the women’s race, Manuela Moelgg announced her retirement after 18 seasons on the circuit. The Italian veteran secured 14 podiums, including three third-place finishes this season, but failed to win a race in 283 World Cup starts.

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Declan Farmer heroics lift U.S. to Paralympic hockey title in OT (video)

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Declan Farmer tied the Paralympic hockey final with 37.8 seconds to play, then scored the golden goal 3:30 into overtime to lift the U.S. over Canada 2-1 for gold on Sunday.

“It’s all a blur at the moment,” said Farmer, a 20-year-old Princeton student, “but when it comes back I will remember this day for the rest of my life.”

Farmer’s heroics gave the U.S. a third straight Paralympic title. No other nation has won two Paralympic golds in seven total tournaments.

The U.S. also finished the Winter Paralympics with the most medals (36) and most gold medals (13) for the first time since Albertville 1992.


When Farmer made a move seconds before scoring the tying goal, with the U.S. having pulled goalie Steve Cash, teammate and captain Josh Pauls thought to himself, “This is Declan Farmer time.” Farmer’s goal was the first allowed by Canada at the tournament, the shutout streak ending after 224 minutes.

Thirty seconds earlier, Canada’s Rob Armstrong had a chance to clinch gold on the empty net, but hit the post from an angle.

Farmer tallied a tournament-leading 11 goals and 17 points in his second Winter Games. His 14 career Paralympic goals are a U.S. record.

Last year, Farmer broke U.S. records for most goals (12) and points (18) at a world championship tournament, though Canada beat the U.S. in that final. He was born a bilateral amputee and started playing sled hockey at age 9.

Cash, who stopped 11 of 12 Canadian shots for his third Paralympic title, told Farmer after Sunday’s game that he was his hero.

“He’s the best overall sled hockey player to ever play the game,” Cash said, according to

The U.S. dedicated its tournament to its 2014 Paralympic coach, Jeff Sauer, who died of pancreatic cancer in February 2017.

“Coach Sauer is watching over us,” Farmer said.

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