Team USA celebrates their 8-0 win over Team Switzerland during the women's preliminary round match at on Feb. 6, 2022 in Beijing
The United States is undefeated. So is Canada.
Identical 3-0-0-0 records.
The U.S. has outscored its opponents 18-2, while Canada has a 29-3 goal differential.
These two historic rivals — they’ve met in five of the last six Olympic gold medal games — are again the top two ranked teams in 2022.
“It’s all about execution,” U.S. forward Kelly Pannek said. “The matchup is just so true, it’s about who competes, who performs and who gets that execution on that day.”
Given that there’s a good chance that these teams may again meet in the gold medal game in Beijing, tonight’s preliminary matchup may be seen by some as nothing more than a tune-up for a higher-stakes clash next week.
However, knowing the gap between these two teams has been razor-thin in the past, this first United States-Canada game has the chance to set the tone for how the rest of the Olympics may play out.
“There’s no such thing as a throw away game against Canada,” three-time Olympian including a 2018 Gold Medal and current NBC Analyst Monique Lamoureux Morando said.
The United States has opened the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 with three straight victories against Finland, the Russian Olympic Committee and Switzerland, including two shutouts. While the competition is not on the same level as the Canadian squad, the first three games of the preliminary round gave the U.S. team an opportunity to hit their stride.
"Our team is right where we need to be at the right time,” Amanda Kessel said following an 8-0 win against the Swiss. “We had a bunch of games cancelled against them (Canada) the past few months, so we have been waiting for that day to get another chance to play them."
Canada has won five of the last seven meetings, including an overtime win at the 2021 World Championships in August. But the defending gold medalists believe the mindset of each team and the international platform is unique and cannot be replicated.
“Playing against Canada in an exhibition match is different than playing them in the Olympics,” Pannek said. “We are trying to make the Olympic team in all those games in the Fall, Winter and now we are trying to win a gold medal. It’s different pressure, different stages, and we’re a different team. I’m guessing they are as well. Ultimately, it’s making sure that we are using every single game that we are playing through the knockout rounds to get better, improve so that we are at our best.”
The goal for Team USA will to be to be at its best when the medal round begins, ahead of a possible return matchup with Canada in the gold medal game next week.
But before the U.S. can focus on its future Olympic games, it must compete with Canada tonight.
“Canada and us, we share a special bond and that makes for great hockey and a beautiful rivalry,” U.S. alternate captain Hilary Knight said. “We are really looking forward to it, and I am sure they are too.”
Puck drop for the showdown between the United States and Team Canada in set for tonight at 11:10 p.m. ET.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Olympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.