On Golden Ponds: Canada, U.S. Women Dominate — Again

Have other countries closed the gap?

The U.S. and Canada kicked off the Olympic women's hockey tournament in Sochi Saturday, and it was more of the same -- on-ice dominance.

Team USA won 3-1, although the game against Finland wasn't as close as the score would make it seem. The Finns were outshot 43-15, and the game would have been a lot more lopsided if Finland didn't have the best goaltender in the world -- Noora Raty -- between the pipes.

Meanwhile, Canada pounded Switzerland 5-0 and outshot them 69-14.

Here we go again.

The U.S. and Canada are women's hockey superpowers, dominating everyone who stands in their way of the gold medal game. While organizers have tried to increase competitiveness in the tourney, Canada's trouncing of the Swiss is a good reminder of just how advanced the Canadians are in the women's game than every other country outside the U.S.

By the time the third period came along, it really wasn't much fun watching the Swiss struggle to keep up with Canada -- unless you're a fan of Team Canada, that is.  It was as if Switzerland was always one stride behind the Canadians, doing whatever it could just to keep up.

Despite being peppered with 69 shots, Switzerland goalie Florence Schelling remained upbeat.

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''It's the best result we've ever had against Canada,'' she told the Associated Press. ''It shows we have improved.''

Many hoped that other countries have closed the gap on Canada and the U.S. at least somewhat since the Vancouver Games, but the first two games of the tournament left many in doubt.

As Karen Crouse of the New York Times put it: "Women’s ice hockey is the snow leopard of the Sochi Games, its survival in the Olympics endangered by the success of the United States and Canada, which have dominated the sport since its Olympic debut in 1998."

Finland may have been the international game's best hope to close that gap, especially with Raty in net.  But after she failed to stop the first shot of the game against the U.S., hope faded fast.

"I always know that when you face the U.S. or Canada, it's going to be 40 or 50 shots," Raty told the Associated Press after the game. "They are the huge favorites and we are the underdog."

Perhaps the nerves will subside and teams will get their legs under them as the tourney moves on. Finland steps back onto the ice Monday for a showdown with Canada. How they come back after the disappointing loss to the U.S. will be crucial not only for them, but for the future of Olympic women's hockey.

Now that's definitely something to root for.

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