GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Watch out world -- the U.S. and Canadian women’s hockey teams have the Winter Olympics' most intense rivalry.
With National Hockey League (NHL) players not taking part in the games in South Korea and a lot of rosters filled out with unfamiliar players, all eyes will turn to the ladies who are expected to meet in the gold medal game.
The atmosphere was electric at Kwandong Hockey Centre on Thursday morning for a preliminary round contest as the two teams battled on the ice until the final horn. Canada held on for a 2-1 win.
The play got physical, as expected considering the history of the two teams on the ice.
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The game ended with fans of both teams holding their breath at the scrum in front of the net, with the U.S. players desperately trying to put one past Canadian goalie Geneviève Lacasse as the players knocked each other around.
Canada’s players lined up for the traditional postgame handshake as the U.S. players waited by the bench, calling for a review of what they thought was a goal in the final seconds.
But the result stood, and Canada earned the No. 1 seed heading into the quarterfinals. Both teams earned bids to the semifinals.
There's high anticipation for the gold-medal game one week from Thursday. If these two teams don’t overlook their semi-final opponent, fans should get the match-up they've been waiting for.
The only time the U.S. women have gone home from an Olympics with a gold medal was in 1998 in the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, when they upset Canada to win the first-ever gold in women's ice hockey.
Since then, Canada has won every other Olympics gold. Four years ago, the United States suffered a heartbreaking loss in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, blowing a two-goal lead late in the game and losing in overtime, watching their Canadian rivals celebrate once again.
That loss has served as motivation for this team, determined to make up for it and return to the top of the medal podium. Although they did not come out on the winning end of this game, they played hard, fast and aggressive, out-shooting their rivals 45-23.