WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- So much for the Americans' Olympic lovefest with Canada.
The United States has worn Canadian-designed outfits and it has unofficially adopted pairs skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.
Now, it's hockey. And that's different.
The United States and Canada made the long-anticipated gold medal women's hockey showdown official Tuesday by winning semifinal matches -- but not as easily as anticipated.
The U.S. overcame a strong defensive effort by Sweden to win 4-0. Canada surged in the last period to turn back a determined effort by Finland 7-3.
The two teams meet for the gold medal at 7 p.m Thursday.
The United States, the defending gold medalist defeated Canada eight straight times on the preliminary tour leading up to the Olympic tournament.
"Who cares? This one is for the medals," said U.S. defenseman Courtney Kennedy.
"We playing now for what everybody wants," said Cammie Granato, the leader of the U.S. team. "Now's hard to come to grips with reality that we've worked so hard and we're where we want to be and they're where they want to be."
"We always said no one is handing out medals in those (exhibition) games," said Canada's Vicky Sunohara.
"We are learning more from losing than from winning," said Canadian defenseman Geraldine Heaney.
Finland and Sweden will have a regional rivalry of their own in playing for the bronze medal.
USA vs. SWEDEN
In the pre-Olympic exhibitions, the U.S. had defeated Sweden 11-1, 9-1, 8-0 and 12-0.
The Americans didn't score Tuesday night until the 17:16 mark of the first period, when Granato, while lying on the ice, pushed a the deflected puck into the net with her stick, the first of two goals for the American captain.
Katie King found the open net on a power play 2:16 later to put the U.S. up 2-0.
"We were flatter than we have been and I don't know why that was," Kennedy said. "They (the Swedes) were playing in front of the net and kept hitting 'em back. It's hard to score when they put so many people around the net."
Sweden coach Christian Yngve said, "We played the best defense we've played against them, but they have another gear."
Granato scored America's third goal off a power play in the second period gand Natalie Darwitz added a goal in the third period.
The U.S., which has allowed only one goal in four games here (that a meaningless goal to China), limited the Swedes to only 10 shots as goalie Sarah Tueting got a shutout.
"Give credit to Sweden," Granato added. "They were the most physical team we've played and they use their bodies well."
CANADA VS. FINLAND
Before the Canadians could even think about the much-anticipated match with the United States, they had to dispose of Finland, which took an afternoon's work.
Going into the game, Canada had not been scored on in the tournament. The Finns then flirted with one of the biggest upsets in Olympic hockey history, leading 3-1 after the first period and 3-2 after the second.
Canada regrouped and asserted itself with five goals in the third period to win going away 7-3.
"We went after them the third period," said forward Tammy Lee Shewchuk. "I don't think a freight train could have stopped us."
"A great quality of our team is not panicking," said Vicky Sunohara. "We were smiling; we were pretty calm. It brought out our true character. It brought us to the limit."
Tuula Puputti, Finland's goalie, who faced 47 shots, added, "Being seven-time world champions, Canada knows how to win games like this."
"It's great to have had such a tough game because we've had some easy ones and we know when we play the USA, it will be tough," said Canadian forward Cassie Campbell.
Peninsula Clarion ©2015. All Rights Reserved.