SPORTS

Canada secures semifinal berth at women's world hockey championship

03/31/2015 12:21 EDT | Updated 05/31/2015 05:59 EDT
MALMO, Sweden - Canada is following the philosophy that less ice time is more as they prepare for their women's world hockey championship semifinal game.

The Canadians went 2-1 in Pool A behind the United States at 3-0. Both countries secured byes to Friday's semifinals.

Canada finished with a 6-2 win over Finland, while defending champion U.S. downed Russia 9-2 on Tuesday.

With their three preliminary-round games starting at 4 p.m. local time, the Canadian women haven't had a game day skate.

Head coach Doug Derraugh will keep his team off the ice Wednesday. They didn't skate Monday either, so Canada hasn't been on the ice except to play games since the tournament started Saturday.

Derraugh's rationale is now is the time for his players to rest their bodies and mentally process all the information that's been thrown at them since the start of their training camp March 18 in Toronto.

Canada also skated four times, including a pre-tournament game against a regional midget-aged boys' team, within 48 hours of arriving in Sweden.

"We went about 11 days in a row in camp between games and practices where we never really gave them a break," Derraugh explained.

"For the coaches, it's really hard to give the team the day off. You really want to get on the ice and do things. You've got to look at the end picture.

"Even tomorrow, we'll have some meetings and look at video. It's nice to give them a little bit of a break here before the push."

The Canadian women will skate Thursday in preparation for their semifinal, in which they'll face the winner of Wednesday's quarter-final between Finland and Switzerland.

The U.S. meets the quarter-final winner of Russia versus host Sweden. The championship and bronze-medal games are Saturday.

Toronto's Natalie Spooner scored two goals and assisted on another to pace Canada against Finland. Jennifer Wakefield of Pickering, Ont., contributed a goal and a pair of assists, while defender Courtney Birchard of Mississauga, Ont., added a goal and an assist.

Brigette Lacquette of Mallard, Man., and Saskatoon's Emily Clark scored their first career goals for the national women's team.

"It was pretty amazing to get the first one under my belt," said Clark, the youngest player on the Canadian team at 19. "My linemates did a lot of work to make that happen."

Genevieve Lacasse of Kingston, Ont., stopped 15 of 17 shots in net for the victory. Finland's captain Jenni Hiirikoski countered with a pair of goals, while goaltender Eveliina Suonpaa made 23 saves in the loss.

With 10 on the 23-player roster making their world championship debut, Canada emerged from the preliminary round outscoring their opponents 12-6 and outshooting them 83-70.

"I think we've been working real hard in the offensive zone and through the middle of the ice," Derraugh said. "The defensive zone stuff, I'd like to nail down a little bit and our work off the puck."

Finland was without top forward Michelle Karvinen for a second straight day with what's been reported as the flu. Their workhorse goaltender Noora Raty isn't participating in this world championship because of injury.

Nevertheless, the Finns engaged Canada in all three zones rather than throwing all their efforts into defending their half of the ice as they did prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Canada led by one goal until late in the second period when Spooner sprung Wakefield on a breakaway. Birchard added some breathing room less than a minute later.

"We knew they were going to be a tough team to play against," Spooner said. "They always clog the middle. They like to trap us in our own end. We knew were going to have to put up with that and try and break it down and get in their end and just get shots on net."

Sweden blanked Germany 4-0 and Switzerland shut out Japan 3-0 in Pool B games Tuesday. Germany and Japan will play a relegation round with the loser dropping to the women's 'B' world championship next year.

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Follow Donna Spencer at @DLSpencer10

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