Mask-wearing Canadians crush ROC in game delayed by controversy

The Canadian women's hockey team wore masks for their matchup with Russia at the Beijing Olympics. (Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)
The Canadian women's hockey team wore masks for their matchup with Russia at the Beijing Olympics. (Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

It wasn't without controversy, but Canada has cruised to another victory at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

After an hour-long delay to sort out some confusion over COVID-19 protocols and testing, the Canadians returned to the ice to defeat the Russian Olympic Committee 6-1. It was reported that Russian officials didn't submit the required information surrounding the nation's pre-match testing.

Canada had six different goal scorers in the contest — including captain Marie-Phillip Poulin, who notched her first of tournament, and breakout star Sarah Fillier, who leads the tournament in goal scoring despite having a second erased by video review.

Here are the details from the win:

Right under your nose

The story of this game was the controversy that preceded it.

After a full-participation warmup, the Canadians decided not to return to the ice to start the game over concerns that the Russian athletes — or more specifically the team's chief medical officer — had failed to hand over accurate results from the team's latest round of testing. It was certainly a worthy concern on the part of the Canadians, who have gone to great lengths to avoid running into issues linked to COVID-19 in their preparation for the Games. The Russians had arrived shorthanded with positive tests and the lingering effects of confirmed cases disrupting the team's preparation for the competition.

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Canada reportedly requested an hour-long delay to either receive the information it was lacking, or to negotiate a compromise. And while it's hard to imagine that Canada would risk competing in the game without the assurances that it would be safe, both teams emerged after an hour with N-95 masks underneath their cages in a deal struck between the two federations. Apparently the Canadians requested the extra precaution, and agreed to wear them as well in order to have the condition met. For whatever reason, Russia was able to take its masks off before the start of the third period, while Canada's stayed on.

The drama seemed to set a strange tone — at least early on. In those first few moments, the contest seemed to be more about survival — or just preparing to see through the final whistle — rather than a showcase of the incredible form the Canadians have shown.

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Still, there were those same keys to victory. The Canadians created and built on a lead within the space of the first few shifts with Sarah Nurse and Fillier once again converting. They featured more terrific goaltending. Their depth continued to slowly eat away at the opponent. Before long, the lead was insurmountable.

Hopefully Canada and Russia competed in a safe environment, and that the N-95 masks, when worn, were merely a precaution, and not a potentially tournament-saving last line of defence.

In any case, the testing and reporting piece needs to be figured out so that there are no more concerns.

On the board

Marie-Philip Poulin isn't leaving them all for crunch time.

The Canadian captain and the nation's flag bearer scored her first of the tournament in the third period, removing the proverbial monkey off her back.

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How's this for depth and a neat and tidy conclusion to the non-story that was Poulin's scoring drought? No. 29's first of the tournament was Canada's 29th goal of the tournament.

Things are setting up quite well when a team can score 28 goals in eight-plus periods before its mega-star factors into the equation.

Practice makes... situational cardio?

While we can only speculate on how disruptive the masks were for the teams and each individual player in Monday's game, apparently the Canadians were prepared for the possibility of having to wear that extra layer of protection.

Canadian Olympic gold medallist and current CBC analyst Meaghan Mikkelson noted in the intermission that the team practiced with masks on while training in their centralized facilities in preparation for the Games. One of the team's final cuts, Mikkelson was a full mask-wearing participant in those training sessions prior to the roster being finalized.

Another quality option

It was surely not how Emerance Maschmeyer saw it all those times she dreamt it up in her head, but the Canadian backup netminder's Olympic debut was successful nonetheless.

With a surgical mask under her goaltending mask, Maschmeyer spelled Canadian starter Ann-Renee Desbiens for one awkward afternoon and bailed out her teammates on a few occasions (and once on a clear-cut breakaway) in the first period, which was likely Canada's most disjointed frame of the tournament to this point.

That said, Maschmeyer didn't make the sort of statement that would suggest she should start over Desbiens. That would have required perfection, one would assume. Instead, Maschmeyer was caught cheating off her post on a three-on-one break for the Russians in a second period dominated by the Canadians, allowing a goal that most certainly should have been stopped. It was the first time Russia scored versus Canada in an Olympic competition.

Maschmeyer, though, was solid throughout. Canada has two quality goalies in their prime in Beijing, which is just another example of its level and depth of talent.

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