Round 1 of Canada-U.S. hockey done, but women know ‘war is still to be played’

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SOCHI, Russia — How to find meaning in a so-called meaningless game – that was the challenge after Canada’s 3-2 victory over the United States Wednesday at Shayba Arena.

Because here’s the thing: barring a tremendous upset in Monday’s semifinals, to which both sides have advanced, the two women’s hockey powerhouses are still expected to meet in the gold-medal game on Feb. 20.

“Ultimately it’s a battle and the war is still to be played,” said Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser,  who finished with a goal and an assist.

And that looming war is ultimately why none of the American players, nor coach Katey Stone, put up much of a fuss over Canada’s second goal, by Wickenheiser, that seemed to cross the line after the referee’s whistle blew.

“I did hear the whistle blow before the puck went in,” said Stone.

“But what are you going to do? That’s what happens. We had a lot of time left in that game. I’m not going to hang my hat on that one.”

The final score did mean one thing for sure. Canada has now won 18 straight games in the Olympics, its last loss coming to the United States in the gold-medal final of the 1998 Nagano Games.

Canadian coach Kevin Dineen was pleased with today’s victory, but was hesitant to attach much significance to the final score, given all the ways the result could have been different.

VIDEO: Watch the controversial goals

“We won tonight,” said Dineen. “I’d love to say we could win two in a row. A lot of bounces go in there, those things happen. I’m just hoping we can keep moving forward.”

Wickenheiser echoed her coach’s message about getting, or sometimes not getting, the breaks.

“We know it’s always going to come down to one or two bounces when we face [the U.S.],” she said.

Stone, meanwhile, was “indifferent” to the performance of her side, suggesting a couple of areas for improvement.

“Our defensive support today in our own end was not what it’s typically been in the last two months, and that’s an area that we can continue to work on,” she said.

“And then we’ve got to establish our forecheck. It wasn’t until we got a little bit more comfortable in the game that we really started to play on our toes versus on our heels.”

At the end of the day, perhaps there’s no need to unearth some key underlying factor, some predictive element from today’s game. Perhaps it’s enough that it was another typical U.S.-Canada clash that left the fans entertained and looking forward to the teams’ next meeting.

“Both teams would like to play each other,” said Canadian goalie Charline Labonte. “It would be a bonus playing them – there would be a lot of emotion on the ice.”

Aksel Lund Svindal, Olympic Alpine champ, has testicular cancer, ‘prognosis good’

Aksel Lund Svindal
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Aksel Lund Svindal, a retired Olympic Alpine skiing champion from Norway, said he underwent surgery for testicular cancer and the prognosis “looked very good.”

“Tests, scans and surgery all happened very quickly,” Svindal, 39, wrote on social media. “And already after the first week I knew the prognoses looked very good. All thanks to that first decision to go see a doctor as soon as I suspected something was off.”

Svindal retired in 2019 after winning the Olympic super-G in 2010 and downhill in 2018. He also won five world titles among the downhill, combined and giant slalom and two World Cup overall titles.

Svindal said he felt a change in his body that prompted him to see a doctor.

“The last few weeks have been different,” he wrote. “But I’m able to say weeks and not months because of great medical help, a little luck and a good decision.

“I wasn’t sure what it was, or if it was anything at all. … [I] was quickly transferred to the hospital where they confirmed what the doctor suspected. Testicle cancer.”

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France vs. Mali Group B
4 a.m. Australia vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada vs. Japan Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final