Swedes satisfied with hockey silver

One win over a North American side was sensational; two would have been miraculous. But reality prevailed in the Olympic women's ice hockey final on Monday as Sweden lost to reigning champions Canada.

Cherie Piper scored her tournament-leading seventh goal in the 4-1 victory. Jayna Hefford had a goal and an assist, Caroline Ouellette and Gillian Apps scored once each for heavily-favoured Canada.

Sweden was the bronze medallist from 2002 and were one of the top seeds in Turin but they were second-best to Canada at the Palasport Olimpico arena.

Canada dominated from the opening faceoff using their superior speed and strength to overpower the Swedes, who were playing in the first gold medal game in Swedish women’s hockey history.

Sweden were also trounced by Canada 8-1 in the preliminary round.

Charline Labonte made seven saves for Canada to record her third straight victory of the tournament.

She had her consecutive shutout streak snapped at 125 minutes when Sweden’s Gunilla Andersson scored early in the third period to make it 4-1. Labonte had blanked Russia (12-0) and Finland (6-0) in earlier games.

At the other end, Kim Martin stopped 20 shots for Sweden.

Canada had expected to meet the United States in the final as they had squared off in 11 previous major international and Olympic competitions since the first World Championship in 1990.

But Sweden finally broke that stranglehold by stunning the US 3-2 in a shootout on Friday to become the first European nation to defeat one of the North American giants.

Canada entered the final with 13 players who won gold in 2002 and the three top scorers in the Turin tournament (Hayley Wickenheiser, Piper and Apps).

They finished with a 5-0 record, outscoring their opponents 46-2.

Canada finished second behind the United States when women’s hockey made its debut in the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

But they avenged that loss with a 3-2 win over the Americans in the gold medal game at Salt Lake City.

Apps drew first blood for Canada at 3:15 of the opening period with a soft backhand from 10 feet out that fooled Martin.

Hefford set up Ouellette for the second goal with a long pass from the left side boards that Ouellette redirected past Martin at 12:13 of the first.

In the middle of the second period the puck flew into the Swedish bench and into the hands of coach Peter Elander who quickly slipped the Olympic souvenir into his pocket.

And that’s about as close as the Swedish team got to the puck all night.

Piper scored the third of the game for Canada, at the nine minute mark of the second. Hayley Wickenheiser circled behind the net before finding Piper all alone in front.

Hefford scored at 10:27 of the second to make it 4-0.

Sweden’s built on the success of a bronze in Salt Lake City to have a breakthrough tournament in Italy.