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Canada has unfinished business heading into women's world hockey semifinal

UTICA, N.Y. — Canada heads into the final four at the women's world hockey championship still a work in progress.

Defender Renata Fast scored twice in Canada's 5-1 win over Sweden in a heavy Thursday quarterfinal of collisions and grinding checks along the boards.

Canada meets back-to-back bronze medallist Czechia, and defending champion United States faces Finland in Saturday's semifinals. The medal games are Sunday.

The Swedes challenged Canada on Thursday until they were rattled by a third-period call that went against them.

Sweden's subsequent cross-checking penalty and defensive breakdowns allowing two goals in the span of less than a minute salted the win away for Canada.

"I honestly like winning a game like that. You're going to the semifinals, and there's still things to work on," Canadian head coach Troy Ryan said. "We're confident, but we're not necessarily thinking the job's done.

"We got to tighten up our game if we're going to be successful, and not just in a final. We've got to tighten it up to be successful in the semis."

Laura Stacey, Natalie Spooner and Jaime Bourbonnais also scored for Canada, which has goal production from a dozen different players in the tournament. Defender Jocelyne Larocque had two assists.

Canada required a Sarah Nurse overtime goal to beat Sweden 3-2 in last year's quarterfinal in Brampton, Ont., but got the job done more emphatically in Utica, N.Y.

Emerance Maschmeyer got the start in Canada's net for the quarterfinal as she did in Brampton, with Kristen Campbell backing her up. Maschmeyer made 17 saves.

But the Canadians gave up their first power-play goal of the tournament and were short-handed five times. They were also scoreless on four power-play chances to be 1-for-14 in the tournament.

"We lost the special teams battle that I don't like to lose, but we definitely lost them tonight," Ryan said. "Too many penalties to kill.

"Because of the penalties the flow of the game was just blah. It was painful to be honest. I thought we did a relatively good job sticking with it and not getting too frustrated with it.

"My message to the group after the game (was) 'you accomplished what you came here to do.' No one got injured, we're in a good spot. Maschmeyer had a good game, came up big in times when we needed her."

Sweden's Emma Soderberg, who had 51 saves against Canada last year, stopped 39 in front of an announced 1,512 at the Adirondack Bank Center.

"Emma was good, but we need that top-notch performance," Swedish head coach Ulf Lundberg said.

The Canadians led 2-1 and 3-1 at period breaks.

The Swedes had two solid chances to pull even early in the second period. Lina Ljungblom took off on a breakaway stepping out of the penalty box, and Sofie Lundin put a shot off Maschmeyer's left post.

Ljungblom backhanded a rebound by a prone Maschmeyer midway through the third period, but officials ruled the play was whistled dead when Maschmeyer made the initial save.

"The whistle goes too fast, of course, so it was a mistake from them," Lundberg said. "I take great responsibility for what my team (does) and the referees have to take responsibility for their calls."

Each side doled punishing checks to the other. Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin leaning into Paula Bergstrom and assessed an illegal hit had a Swedish fan yelling "kick her out" midway through the period.

Sweden introduced body checking in its women's league for the 2022-23 season.

"They play physical game for sure," Fast said. "We knew going into it that there would be some physicality just given the league they all play in and the previous times we've played them, but I think we're all used to it and we like it."

Czechia blanked Germany 1-0, Finns were 3-1 winners over Switzerland and the U.S. thumped Japan 10-0 in other quarterfinals.

GIMME GOAL SONG

Canada wasn't taunting the Swedes with their goal song Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight!)" by the Swedish group ABBA.

The 1979 pop hit became the team's goal anthem during this winter's Rivalry Series against the United States.

When the series moved to Kitchener and Sarnia, Ont., in December after opening in Los Angeles and Tempe, Ariz., the Canadian team wanted a goal song for their home arenas.

"When we're in the U.S., we don't get our goal song," Fast explained. "Emma Maltais put together a handful, maybe five, different songs and we all sat in the meal room and we played them. We all had to vote, but it took us an hour and a half to choose the song.

"We just really liked the vibe of that one. I think the coaching staff was in the back raising their hand for that one."

Flo Rida's "My House" and Celine Dion songs were considered "but didn't stick," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2024.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press