Heading into Canada’s second preliminary round game at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China, the team’s biggest concern was the absence of star forward Melodie Daoust due to an upper-body injury.
No Daoust, no problem, against Finland.
The Canadians steamrolled over their opponents 11-1 on the strength of hat tricks from Sarah Nurse and Brianne Jenner, complemented by two-goal efforts by Sarah Fillier and Laura Stacey.
Fillier continued her meteoric ascent into stardom on the world stage, finding the net with a wrist shot from the slot just 61 seconds after the opening faceoff. The 21-year-old Georgetown, Ont., native has displayed the poise of a veteran over the first two games of what has been dubbed to be her ‘breakout’ tournament.
“I have a front-row seat to greatness every day,” teammate Jamie Lee Rattray told CBC Sports. “First shift again. You can’t even draw that up in a story. It’s pretty impressive what she’s doing. I’ve been able to train with her the last couple years during the pandemic, and this year now, to see her do it now on the world stage – it doesn’t surprise me one bit.”
Nurse extended her team’s lead with her first goal of the tournament before the Finns responded, capitalizing on Canada’s only blemish of the game as the first period wound down. Defender Ashton Bell’s clearing attempt went awry, and Minnamari Tuominen unleashed a point shot from the blue line that found its way into the net above the shoulder of goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens.
The floodgates opened for Canada in the second period. Just over three minutes in, Fillier scored arguably the prettiest of her four goals in these Olympics to date, receiving a pass below the icing circle off the rush, taking a stride to control the puck, and then instantly roofing a backhand shot past helpless Finnish netminder Meeri Raisanen.
“It’s really awesome to get another game under our belt,” Fillier told the Canadian host broadcaster. “Since the last game ended I was just ready to get back on the ice and play. We had the opening ceremonies last night, so I think everyone was a bit gassed up to play today.”
After Nurse extended an unusual, somewhat comical, streak of four consecutive “Sarah” goals, Jenner chimed in with a pair of markers of her own., Stacey also bulged the twine to cap off a run of four goals from Canada in a span of just six minutes, 34 seconds.
Anni Keisala replaced Raisanen in the Finnish net at the start of the third period, stalling Canada’s momentum only momentarily. After a goalless seven minutes, Rattray – Daoust’s replacement on the top line alongside Fillier and veteran Natalie Spooner – netted her first career Olympic goal, bursting down the right-wing and beating Keisala with a backhander.
Nurse completed her hat trick with a highlight reel tic-tac-toe goal started by Spooner, who entered the offensive zone at the left blue line, then peeled back before feeding Erin Ambrose at the right point with a cross-ice pass. Ambrose in turn streaked towards the goal and threaded the puck through an open lane back to Nurse who had a tap-in.
Stacey and Jenner padded the already comfortable lead to round out the scoring, the latter completing her hat trick by streaming down the middle of the ice to take a centering pass from captain Marie-Philip Poulin before firing the puck past the goalie high on the blocker side.
“What I really liked about today was some of the offence was from a forced turnover,” coach Troy Ryan said to the media. “A couple of Nurse’s goals and Laura Stacey’s were just good high positioning, force a turnover and transition quick to offence. It’s really nice when you can see someone who plays their first offensive action and is a good defensive play; both of them did that and were rewarded for it.”
Spooner finished with four assists to take over the top spot in tournament scoring; two goals and nine points after two games.
For the third time in history, Canada had a pair of three-goal performances in the same Olympic game. The feat was previously accomplished by Cherie Piper and Meghan Agosta at the 2006 O Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy, against Russia, and by Agosta and Jayna Hefford in at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C., versus Slovakia.