4 Nations Cup 2011

Caroline Ouellette: Canada's Loss to USA.

Submitted by Elizabeth Etue on Tue, 11/15/2011 - 17:34 in 4 Nations Cup 2011, Events

Here is Canada's Assistant Captain, Caroline Ouellette's last blog (edited by WINIH)  on the final game at the 4 Nations Cup 2011.She agreed to post for both WINIH & her site: www.carolineouellette.ca.

US vs. Canada final game for the championship.
Our day started with the breakfast of champions. I love food. No its more I LOVE eating! I think about my dinner while I am having my lunch. That is how obsessed I am. I wonder if I eat to train or train to eat! Sometimes I even consider going to cooking school. I know that this food addiction will not give me any other choice than to stay active in my career after hockey or I might have some weight problems! Helps that I love to train! Hope I never lose that passion!

The food here has been heavenly. For me at least! Perhaps not all my teammates have this opinion! But the choices have been incredible at every meal. The salad bar includes couscous with lentils, tuna salads not overwhelmed with mayo, smoked salmon, cheeses, lovely beans salads. The main dishes have been great with flavorful fish and tender chicken, tasty meatloaf and pork. But the best of all is the breakfast! Wow! Scrambled, soft or hard boiled eggs, cheese, ham, turkey, fruits, crepes, breads, oatmeal, flax seeds, nuts, freshly pressed OJ! Only the food has made me so thankful I came to this tournament ☺ Cannot believe what I almost missed! Ok enough about me talking about food! As you can see I am obsessed and people around me will tell you I can be annoying talking about food!

After our breakfast we went to the rink for our final dryland session with Adam. Legs were heavy at first from the previous night’s game against the Swedes. Thankfully I had received a nice massage from Andrea, our massage therapist who worked crazy hours for 10 days straight! And also a not as nice acupuncture treatment from Carla, our therapist. Carla has spent a lot of time with me taping me and retaping me over the course of the tournament! 3 groin tapings in the final itself because I had to use the bathroom between periods! Very thankful for her doing an amazing job each time!

I could sense that the girls were focused during dry land training and thinking about the game ahead. Either that or they were tired and quiet! I like to think that it’s the first option! After finishing some speed work, we had our final handball match-up keeping the same teams from the 2 first contests. Series was tied at one and the hype about this final duel was real! Incredible how competitive we all are in every aspect of our lives. It was a close battle but our team lost by one goal.

We returned to the hotel for a quick shower and even quicker(it felt), nap. I like to use this time with my earplugs to find a peaceful silence and think about my objectives for the game. I try to visualize good plays in previous games and think about plays that I might be able to create scoring chances. I review in my head, team systems like penalty kill, Dzone coverage, fore-check. We all have different ways to prepare. For my roommate Laura Fortino, this mean watching NHL highlights of goals. I watched the video Andrew Brewer, our video coach put together for the first USA game, several times yesterday. Not only do I love the images I also love the words from the clip. Even before the game while I was dressing I listened to the video in only one ear so I could still be aware of my surroundings because I needed to hear the powerful words in the video. Then my stall neighbor Vicki Bendus started watching the video on my ipod so I offered her the other earphone. We both listened to the video one last time. These are the words I loved:

‘’If you see an opening tear into it; if you have a shot at victory make damn sure you take it. Seize that moment. The only thing, the only thing you can count on, on any given moment is you. It’s you versus them; you versus NO; you versus can’t; you versus next year; or last year; statistics; excuses. Clock is ticking; let’s see what you’ve got!’’ Powerful no!? Caro LOVES!

Coach Dan Church spoke before the game about winning the battles, communicating, being physical, managing the puck. And lastly and more importantly, having fun and enjoying the moment. This is what competition is about. This game is what we train for. There are hundreds of girls in Canada that would give anything to have that opportunity to face the Americans in a meaningful game. We are the lucky ones, the few privileged to represent our country. Dan said there are only two ways of representing your country… the first of the greatest magnitude and consequence is enrolling with our armed forces. The second is in my opinion the easier, less stressful one, is to be an athlete on a Canadian team. I had never thought about it that way… and it did make me feel grateful to have that honor. I felt ready for the final to start, ready to go try my best to make a difference in that game.

Unfortunately, we did not start the game as well as we had hoped with the Americans capitalizing on one of their first scoring chances turning a 3 on 4 into a perfect play that led to Kelli Stack’s goal. That was only 1:10 into the game. A bit of a downer to be honest... The game was physical from the start with the referee not calling much early on. That led to some frustrations on our part with 2 of our best players receiving 10 minutes misconducts in the game. I have to admit that I am often one who can lose control of my emotions and I have to work very hard personally to not do so. The last thing you want to do is to lose your focus by focusing on things you cannot control; the referees being the easiest one to disagree with. Or an opponent giving a nasty blow or a player embellishing to put the other team in the penalty box... Unfortunately both of these happen and I am never going to think that they don’t happen both ways. I just try real hard to not be either of those players. The good news is that despite 16 minutes of penalties in the first period we managed to come back to the dressing room trailing by only one goal. We did allow 22 shots in the process which is a lot but Shannon Szabados was up for the challenge and made several key saves to keep us in the game.

Between periods we talked about controlling our emotions and doing a better job on the back check. We had to find a way to get more shots on the American goalie and hold on to the puck long enough to create scoring chances or draw penalties. Our second period was much better and we outshot the U.S. 17-8. We drew 2 penalties and our power play created several great scoring chances. We were unlucky at times hitting two posts in the process. With less than a minute left, I passed the puck to Nat Spooner on the rush and she centered it back to me entering the offensive zone. The puck hit the U.S. defence and went to the boards. I was able to get there first and moved the puck to Lauriane Rougeau who had rushed to support me nicely. She then went D to D to her D partner Laura Fortino. I was then able to sneak backdoor and was praying Fortino had seen me! I raised my stick but did not want to scream to call attention on me. Fortino and I made eye contact and she made an amazing saucer pass over 2 American sticks right on my blade. I stopped the puck and was able to shoot it almost in an empty net. With 30 seconds to go in the 2nd, the game was now tied to 1-1. I was very excited about the goal because Fortino and I have been roommates and have had a great time together. In one of the earliest games this tournament, I fed her a nice pass for a scoring chance before she fed me an even better one but the problem is that we had both missed. Fortino had said we will reconnect when it matters! Well I cannot think of a time where it mattered more!

We were proud of our effort after the 2nd period and we wanted to make sure we kept the pressure on in the 3rd. We wanted to stay in the battles and win most of them. Usually the team that does that ends up with the victory. Unfortunately, an early penalty in the 3rd put us on the penalty kill and the Americans were able to score on the power play with a goal from my ex UMD teammate Jenny Potter assisted by Hillary Knight. Once again we stayed into the game and kept believing we could come back again. There was plenty of time left to do so! 6 minutes into the 3rd “Wick” (Hayley Wickenheiser) skated the puck in the offensive zone. After a nice battle from her to keep the puck in the zone, I was able to gather the puck along the boards. I tried my best to protect it and started cutting back towards the net. I found an open Natalie Spooner in the slot and passed to her. She beat the American goalie with a nice shot that hit the post and went in!

We thought once again that this time, it might be our turn to take the lead once and for all. But three minutes later, the Americans were able to convert a 3 on 3 situation into a goal with a nice play between Jocelyne Lamoureux and Kelli Stack. Stack made a very nice deceptive move to cut back across in the slot and get a clear shot at the net. There was nothing “Szaby”, our goaltender, could have done.

Still 10 minutes to go in the game and although there was no need to panic yet, we knew that we had to start playing with more urgency. After doing a great job in the penalty kill again, we were able to come back 5 on 5 to try to create offense. On a breakout I was able to find Wick who supported me well. She then made a nice pass to Nat Spooner on the right wing. Spooner is really great at shooting quickly and she has fast hands so it is hard to know when she is about to release. She used the D as a screen and beat the U.S. goalie with a nice low shot blocker side. Once again we felt the delicious happiness of tying the game. This time with less than 5 minutes to go….

It started to seem more and more like overtime! We finished the game 4 on 4 but no team was able to take advantage of the space to create a scoring chance. We now had a 10 minute overtime; 4on4 sudden death left and shootouts if needed. It was clearly a time to empty the tank and leave everything we had left on the ice. Early in the overtime I made a small mistake mishandling the puck along the board. It created an odd player rush for the Americans and one of our players had to take a penalty on the play after “Szaby” made two amazing saves. I did not feel great about it. But I guess that’s what hockey is all about. You make great plays; then you make bad decisions. And it can go from one to the other so quickly. As I matured I did not let mistakes affect me as much mentally. I am not saying it is easy but I try to remind myself to stay in the present and focus on the future. I use a trick given by my Captain for years, Cassie Campbell, if I don’t like one of my shifts I take a sip of water and spit it out. By doing so, my mistake comes out with it and after that I am not allowed to think about it again. This of course would be my perfect state of mind. I wish I was always able to forget so easily. Thankfully we killed the penalty 3 on 4. I went out with Rebecca Johnson and she made a great block shot to prevent a good look at the net. We were able to ice the puck shortly after. Both teams exchanged a couple scoring chances and both goalies were solid.

I believe that most players would prefer to play the game until there is a goal. A team game like hockey becomes in my opinion an individual game (or the game of a few) when we go to shootouts. Our 3 shooters were in that order: Jayna Hefford, Mélodie Daoust and Hayley Wickenheiser.

The Americans shot first with Kelli Stack finding a way to just squeeze a puck between Szaby’s legs. Jayna went 1st for us and she made one of the nicest goals I have ever seen in a shootout. Probably about 3 fakes and a sudden change of direction at the end left the goalie on one side and her on the other. It was amazing! Both American Amanda Kessel and Melodie Daoust were not able to score in the 2nd round. Daoust, 19 years old, was the youngest player on our team. Despite her young age, I would have without a doubt put her in the shootout too if I had been the coach. She is just fantastic at that aspect of the game. I have not seen her miss a lot in my career. And I am so proud of her for attempting a spinorama because she has all the skills to make a move that has a high degree of difficulty. She had beaten the goalie. She was just unlucky with her finish with the puck slipping from her stick blade. “Mélo” plays with some magic and I wish she will never lose that edge. That is what makes her so special. She was very sad after the game but I tried to make her realize that we all had chances to win the game many times earlier. She cannot think that she is responsible for the loss.

I have been one to miss in shootouts before and it is not a pleasant feeling. But you want to be that player that the coaches and teammates trust to have the puck on your stick in those situations. Sometimes it goes your way; sometimes the goalie just makes the better play. Knight shot 3rd for the U.S. and with a very hard and precise shot, she beat Szabados between the legs. We had to score to stay alive. Wick went down and chose to shoot but Vetter made a nice save to end the game.

I thought seconds before the shootout started, ‘’In 8 minutes this team will either be extremely happy or very disappointed. ’Yet I could not shake the feeling that even if we had won, I would not have been satisfied with our performance. Bottom line is, the American team had better scoring chances than we did. They created more for one another. They moved the puck better, transitioned quicker, seemed more skilled one on one.

I am proud that we never gave up. That we stayed in the game, stayed in the battle, that we believed we could come back in the game each time. That we never panicked. I loved the fact that the girls really seemed like they wanted the win above everything else; above individual gratification and reward. Willingly sacrificing to block shots and taking and giving physical contacts.

But the truth is that Shannon Szabados was our best player making 52 saves. What if Shannon had been only good today and not great!? What if the American goalie had been the best player in the game!? I am afraid the scoring chances we created might not have been enough to even have a close game. Both games against the U.S. we were outshot and in my opinion ‘’out chanced.’’

The players spoke briefly in the locker room after the game. I am 32 years old, I am well aware that leading up to Sochi if I can improve by 1 or 2% that would be amazing! After 30, you can perfect your skills but you cannot make a huge improvement like the young players might be able to make. The first time I was centralized in 2001, I probably improved by 10-15%. Yes we had a young team at the tournament but I refuse to use this as an excuse. We each need to use the motivation from that loss to get better individually; to improve our individual skills, our shooting and our passing. Because when World Championship comes in April 2012, we want to win for the first time in 4 World Championships. The Americans are fueled by a powerful vengeance instinct created by 3 loses in a row at the Olympic Games. That’s what makes them so dangerous. And I only know this feeling because we had it leading up to the 2002 Olympic final after 8 losses in a row to the U.S.; and during the 2010 Olympic year after 2 losses at Worlds. We cannot wait for centralization year to try to catch up.

It needs to happen now. It needs to happen within each of us wherever we are. For our sole purpose as athletes representing Canada is not enough to want to be part of the team, we must strive to be the best; above everything else.
 

Photo: Caroline Ouellette and Vicki Bendus.

Sweden's Overtime Win on Home Ice.

Submitted by Elizabeth Etue on Sun, 11/13/2011 - 18:00 in 4 Nations Cup 2011, Events

Elin Holmlov, Assistant Captain reports on the
Swedish win at 4 Nations 2011
Finland 1 Sweden 2

The Highlights… and Sudden Death Overtime.
I scored the first goal of the game, got a perfect pass from Kristina Vikdahl that gave me a lot of time. I was able to take a slap shot that went in the top corner. A few minutes later Finland tied the game on a rebound from a shot from the right side of the net. The game winner was scored by our defenseman Linnea Hedin in overtime, extremely important goal!! We had a lot of pressure and Linnea came down towards the net and slammed the puck in past the goalie.

During the game there were quite a lot of penalties but neither team was able to capitalize on them. There were also a lot of great chances; Gizela Blom who played a great game was really close to putting a puck in the net after working really hard & outskating a Finnish defenseman in the third period. A couple of shifts later Gizela Blom took a great shot on the far side of the net and Emma Eliasson was close to putting the rebound in. Finland also had a lot of good chances. I think it was a well-played game from both teams, a lot of chances both ways and excellent goaltending from both teams.

Kim Martin started out in net for us and as always she was excellent, unfortunately she got hurt and had to be carried out in the middle of the first period so Sara Grahn stepped in and played excellent for us in net! I think one of our strengths is that we have very good goaltenders. Kim Martin was rewarded best goalie in the tournament, which she totally deserved. She has played absolutely amazingly throughout this week!!

Overtime…
Just like the first game against Finland it was tied 1-1 after 60 minutes of play so it went into overtime. It was a10 minute overtime and we played 4 vs 4. I think we had a lot of pressure during this OT and created a lot offensively. At 9.27 Linnea Hedin scores the game winner for us and it we all gathered in a huddle and jumped around! I think all of us felt very happy that we were able to win this game!

Winning on Home Ice in Overtime…
We managed to score with about 30 seconds left in overtime! Linnea Hedin scored her first goal in the team Sweden jersey and she could not have picked a better time to do so! She got the game winner and it was just a lot of happiness ... you could tell everyone was so very happy we were able to turn it around and beat Finland for third place in this tournament. It was also a feeling of relief that we were able to get it done on our home ice in front of our home crowd. It always feels good to win!!

Photo:( L-R) Frida Nevalainen, Erika Holst and Elin Holmlov

Losing the Bronze Medal in Overtime.

Submitted by GuestBlog on Sun, 11/13/2011 - 17:27 in 4 Nations Cup 2011, Events

Here is the last blog from Finnish forward Minttu Tuominen, a 20 year old in her junior year at Ohio State University.

Bronze game: Sweden-Finland 2-1 OT
Nov.13, 2011 4 Nations Cup

Once again, the game against Sweden was even with both teams having some good momentum in the game. Sweden got the first goal after 5 minutes when Elin Holmlöv took a slapshot from the blue line after a power play. There was some traffic in front of Portnoj so she didn't see the shot as it went to the top shelf. Susanna Tapani tied the game for us 6 minutes later off a rebound. Mira Jalosuo took a shot from the blue line and Pia Lund touched the puck to Tapani who put it in net. In the second period we had most momentum and good chances to score but weren't able to finish.

After a scoreless third period we went to the overtime for the second time in the tournament. With only 33 seconds left of the 10-minute overtime Sweden's young Linnea Hedin scored while Holmlöv got the assist. I actually lost my stick in the neutral zone so Sweden got a 3-on-2 rush which ended in the game-deciding goal.

Players of Note…
Portnoj in goal had a good game again and she saved us when Sweden had the momentum shift in their favour in the game. I think our Captain Jenni Hiirikoski had a good game both offensively and defensively, and she sacrificed her body for the team blocking shots as well.

Post-game...
After the game the locker room was quiet. Some players were talking about how we couldn't play at our level for the whole 60 minutes in any of the games at this tournament. Our coaches said they could see that we wanted the win and really tried, but there was "more electricity than light" in our game; meaning that we tried hard and did some good things but there were no results. After cooling down on the track and having dinner, we loaded the bus and headed to Stockholm. At the hotel we still had individual meetings with the coaches to end the day before traveling home on Monday.

 

Minttu Tuominen: Tough Game vs USA.

Submitted by GuestBlog on Sun, 11/13/2011 - 07:58 in 4 Nations Cup 2011, Events

Minttu Tuominen Nov. 12, 2011 4 Nations Cup.
Finland 0 vs. USA 10

We started off pretty well in the game against USA. In the first ten minutes we had quite a few scoring changes off of good fore check but didn't bury them. USA scored their first goal at the 4 minute mark, and three minutes later they already had a 3-0 lead. All of the goals came on 5 vs 5. I'm not exactly sure what happened in all of the goals.

Susanna Airaksinen started in goal for us. She has been at some national team camps as well as in Under-18 World Championships. She ended up playing only 7 minutes, I believe the coaching staff tried to wake up the team, because in a couple of those goals the goalie could not be blamed. Amanda Kessel's goal was a breakaway, for example.

Through the whole game, we could not compete against USA in skating. They were on us right we got the puck, and we lost loose puck battles and 1-on-1's.

After the game we were obviously all disappointed. We know we are so much better than how we played in that game. Of course USA has a good team, but we should be able to play way better than that game showed, but now it's time to lift our heads up and be ready to face Sweden again. We definitely want to play our best game in this tournament on Sunday.

Personally for me these tournaments are excellent motivation. They make me want to go in the weight room and work on getting my legs stronger or on the track or bike and get faster and on better shape, and also improve my game everywhere on the ice.

Picture of me and Terhi Mertanen (on the left)


 

Caroline Ouellette: Why Kim Martin is So Good.

Submitted by Elizabeth Etue on Sun, 11/13/2011 - 07:10 in 4 Nations Cup 2011, Events

Caroline Ouellette talks about Canada's 3-1 win over Sweden and why the game was so close.
See previous summary in WINIH talks.
Photo: Lauriane Rougeau, Vicki Bendus, Laura Fortino and Cassandra Poudrier.

Very close game; no scoring in first period….
We faced a Kim Martin that was incredible. We did not do a good enough job screening her and battling to get to rebounds. We had several good chances but could not finish. Our goalie, Shannon Szabados also played great in the 1st period making key saves while Sweden was on the power play

Kim Martin is really good technically. She moves quickly and is able to anticipate the play: not many goalies have that ability to. She plays with so much composure that it gives her players in front of her confidence. She can win games on her own. In 2008 we won the national championship with University of Minnesota-Duluth when I was an assistant coach there and Kim Martin was a key component of that championship tournament performance. I will never forget how great she was. She seems like she was able to recover fully from past injuries that made her miss competition.

You scored Canada’s first goal…
My goal was off an offensive zone low play. I cycled the puck to Nathalie Spooner who moved the puck east to west behind the net to Wick (Hayley Wickenheiser). I then came across in the high slot and got a nice pass to Wick that I redirected over Kim's right shoulder. Unfortunately, only a few minutes later Elin Holmlov scored one of the nicest goals I have seen beating 3 of our players and Szaby (Shannon Szabados) on a very nice deke.

Dressing Room Before the Third Period…
Dan (Church-head coach) talked about taking pride in winning the battles in every zone. We were working very hard trying to create offence in the offensive zone but did not seem to work as well in our back checking or transition game. We also needed to play better physically and make contact on the puck carrier. Sweden's goal was a bit of us playing the puck and not taking the body. The players also talked about making simple plays. Execute the first pass we see open. Getting traffic in front of the net and burying rebounds.

Rookies on defence…
I think the rookies have been doing great and played with more and more confidence as the tournament went on. Courtney Birchard has been very good offensively making creative plays and taking great shots on net.
(Laura Fortino, Stefanie McKeough, Cassandra Poudrier and Lauriane Rougeau all made their debut with the senior team at the Four Nations. They range in age from 19 to 21 except Birchard who is 22.)

You and your line mates…
Things have been going well for my line. Wick, Spooner and I have been able to create scoring chances in all games and seem to be more and more comfortable with one another. Wick is having a great tournament which makes everyone looks good. She supports the puck well and has won battle in our zone enable us to transition quickly to offence. Spooner is very skilled and talented and has been creating some nice chances.

Gold medal game vs USA.
I believe the lines will stay relatively the same for the final game against team USA. We know that the intensity is once again going to go up and that they will be ready to avenge their loss. We have to match or exceed their intensity and drive. I think that we are ready for a great hockey game. We want a gold medal performance that can hopefully give us a good chance at winning!