By Dave Zarum, Sportsnet
1. Here we go:
Without a doubt the most inevitable outcome heading into the Sochi Games—Canada and USA will compete for gold in the women’s hockey tourney finals on Thursday. And while, for the first Olympics in recent memory, the Americans came into Sochi as heavy favourites, you can expect an even battle to the final buzzer. Team USA has been finding the back of the net with ease all tournament long, led by the lightning-quick trio of Amanda Kessel, Kendall Coyne, and Brianna Decker (all have six point in four games, and are a combined +26 in the tourney thus far). But Canada has its share of weapons as well—Hayley Wickenheiser is once again pacing Canada in points with five, while Meghan Agosta, Rebecca Johnston, and Natalie Spooner have been key contributors as well. Between the pipes, the duo of Shannon Szabados and Charline Labonté have been dominant, allowing three combined goals total in the entire tournament. It remains to be seen who head coach Kevin Dineen goes with today; Szabados was the obvious choice before Labonté put in an unbelievable performance in Canada’s 3-2 win over the US in the preliminary round. 7 a.m. EST
2. Can’t be beat?:
It’s Canada versus Sweden in the women’s curling finals, where skip Jennifer Jones and her team are looking to complete an undefeated run in Sochi. In a tightly contested semifinals versus Great Britain, Canada lead Dawn McEwen had a 93 percent accuracy rating, though Swedish skip Margaretha Sigfridsson and her team, who ousted Switzerland in Wednesday’s semis, will present a tough test. 8:30 a.m. EST
3. Women’s free-skate:
Kaetlyn Osmond, the pride of Marystown, Nfld., put in a terrific routine during her short program on Wednesday, finishing 13th with a score of 56.18. Sixteen-year-old Gabrielle Daleman from Toronto also put in an excellent performance, moving on to Thursday’s free skate with a personal-best score of 52.61.
4. Freestyle I:
Everything from qualifying to the finals get under way in men’s ski cross at the Rosa Khutor extreme park. London, Ont’s Dave Duncan is Canada’s best medal hope. Despite missing the Vancouver Games four years ago due to a broken collarbone suffered just two days before the scheduled event, Duncan has returned to form—and then some. He grabbed the bronze at the 2012 X Games, and topped the podium at two consecutive World Cups this past December. 2:45 a.m. EST
5. Freestyle II:
The ski halfpipe Olympic debut on Tuesday was a successful one for Canada, as Edmonton’s Mike Riddle took home the silver medal in the men’s competition. As the women take to the park today for qualifications and the finals, keep an eye in Roz Groenewoud, the two-time X Games gold medallist in this event. 9:30 a.m. EST
Dave Zarum writes for Sportsnet.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014