Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Prominent Winter Games rookies from Canada score first goals in semi-final win over Switzerland

Heading into the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, one of the key components for the Canadian national women’s team was definitely change. From new faces at every position to a new coaching staff, many members of Canada’s contingent were truly Winter Games rookies.

In a semi-final game against Switzerland, a pair of rookies, Natalie Spooner and Melodie Daoust, would score their first-ever goals in Winter Games competition. Having broken the Toronto Furies franchise mark for most goals scored in one season, Spooner was certainly eager to get on the scoreboard for Canada.

At the 7:29 of the opening frame, Spooner would manage to score on Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling (who faced 69 shots against Canada in the preliminary round), with the assist credited to Hayley Wickenheiser. It represented a significant milestone for Spooner, as she logged her first-ever goal in the Winter Games.

Canadian captain Caroline Ouellette beat Schelling with a slapshot but the goal was disallowed due to interference in the crease. Ironically, it was Spooner that was called. Looking to redeem herself, Spooner would grab a rebound and tuck it into the net past Schelling for the two-goal advantage at 11:10. Wickenheiser would register her second assist of the contest.

As the first woman to have competed on Canada’s Under-18, Under-22 and Senior teams, Spooner would end up achieving two unique milestones. Besides scoring her first-ever goal in the Winter Games, the fact that she scored twice resulted in her first multi-goal performance.  

Merely 23 seconds after Spooner provided Canada with a larger lead, Daoust would follow by scoring her first-ever goal in the Games also. The product of McGill University (of note, McGill alumnae Catherine Ward and Charline Labonte are also on Canada’s team), Daoust is testament to the remarkable talent emanating from Canadian Interuniversity Sport play. Her landmark goal was assisted by Jennifer Wakefield, another Winter Games rookie.

Despite the three-goal cushion, Switzerland shut out Canada in the remaining two periods, playing a very stingy defensive game. Jessica Lutz would score for Switzerland in the second but the excitement would subside as Shannon Szabados ensured that the lead would not shrink any further.

The victory for Canada helped them maintain their undefeated streak against Switzerland at the IIHF and Winter Games levels. In addition, the victory over the Swiss provided Canada with its 19 straight win at the Games, dating back to 2002. As Canada looks for its fourth consecutive gold medal, the performance of rookies such as Daoust and Spooner indicates that momentum is high as silver is not an option. 

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