Canada will look to win their fifth consecutive gold medal in women’s hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympics, but will face a stiff challenge from their American neighbors.
Both Canada and the United States have medaled at every Winter Olympics since women’s ice hockey was introduced in 1998. After the Americans took the first title by defeating Canada 3-1 in the gold medal game that year, Canada has won gold at every Olympics since. This year’s tournament promises to take on even more prominence, as the NHL is not participating in the men’s tournament.
North America Dominates Women’s Hockey
The two rivals are the dominant forces in women’s hockey, and nobody else in the world is even close at the moment. The USA has won the last four consecutive world championships, the last coming in an overtime victory over Canada last April. But it has been the Canadians who have seemed to have the magic touch when it comes to the Olympics.
The Americans are hoping the time has come to flip the script.
“We’ve come up short the last two Olympics, and our ultimate goal is just play our best,” American forward Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said. “If we can do that, we truly believe we can come out on top.”
The United States is hoping that a new style of play will help take advantage of their skilled and highly-athletic squad.
“We were very disciplined and very rigid in style,” forward Hilary Knight told Sports Illustrated. “Now it’s more creative and free-flowing. It’s almost more dynamic in many ways. It’s going to be a completely different look that people will see.”
The Canadians still have plenty of reasons to be confident. Canada won five of the eight exhibition games played between the two squads last fall, including the final four. The Canadians also have the edge in goal, with both Shannon Szabados and Genevieve Lacasse having both won gold medals with previous Canadian squads.
The United States remains the top-ranked team in the world, however, and perhaps that’s why oddsmakers have given them a slight edge. At bwin, the USA is a -118 favorite, with Canada (+110) also given very good chances of winning the tournament.
Finland Most Likely to Buck Expectations
If an upset could be brewing, it’s likely to come from Finland. The No. 3 ranked team in the world has often played competitively with the North American teams, and is closing the gap a bit. They even managed to beat Canada 4-3 in the preliminary round of last year’s world championships. They’re still a longshot, though, at +1800 to win gold.
Outside of the teams contending for medals, the most interesting story is that of the combined Korean team that includes a dozen players from North Korea. While it won’t solve all of the problems between the two countries, it is designed as a show of unity in a time of political uncertainty.
The Korean team is a major underdog at +75000 odds, though they put in a respectable performance in a 3-1 loss to Sweden (+3300) in a warmup game. According to Sarah Murray, the coach for Team Korea, the most important thing is fostering a sense of team among her players.
“They are all wearing the same jersey and we are on the same team now,” Murray said. “Hockey really does bring people together.”
Women’s Hockey Odds (via bwin)
- USA: -118
- Canada: +110
- Finland: +1800
- OAR: +3000
- Sweden: +3300
- Switzerland: +20000
- Japan: +50000
- Korea: +75000