(NEW YORK) — It’s a rivalry for the ages.
Since women’s hockey was introduced at the Olympics in 1998, only the United States or Canada has come home with the gold.
Now, for the sixth time in seven Olympics, the U.S. women’s hockey team is facing Canada in a bid for Olympic gold.
The game is taking place Thursday in Beijing (11 p.m. ET Wednesday night) to see who will come out on top this time around. Canada owns four golds, while the U.S. has two.
The buildup to the final has been ferocious, with each team barreling through the competition. Canada went 6-0, giving up only eight goals while scoring an astounding 54.
The U.S., meanwhile, only lost one game throughout the tournament — to Canada, 4-2.
Team USA took a hit early on in the Olympics when star forward Brianna Decker got knocked out of play with an on-ice injury.
But, as demonstrated by their continued success, the team is still stacked with power, including from captain Kendall Coyne Schofield, Amanda Kessel, Abbey Roque and Hilary Knight, returning for her fourth Olympics. Knight, 32, leads the U.S. in scoring with five goals and four assists.
The goalie roster for the U.S. has also been showing their mettle this Olympics between Nicole Hensley, Alex Cavallini and Maddie Rooney. Four years ago in Pyeongchang, the gold medal match came down to goalies when it went to a shootout. Rooney saved Canada’s lost shot then, giving America the gold.
On the Canadian side, the Americans will square off with captain Marie-Philip Poulin, Claire Thompson and goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens. Canadian forward Brianne Jenner leads all goal scorers in the Olympics with nine, while teammate Sarah Fillier is second with eight goals. The top five assist leaders in the tournament are all on the Canadian team, led by overall scoring leader Sarah Nurse with 12.
The Olympics are the most high-profile venue for women’s hockey, which has faced struggles establishing more local groundwork. In the four years since the 2018 Olympics, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded and the National Women’s Hockey League rebranded to the Premier Hockey Federation. Athletes have long been calling for more funding and support both for a functional league with livable salaries and for building infrastructure for youth sport to grow a pipeline.
The U.S. women have at least one supporter who intimately understands those efforts: Billie Jean King voiced her support for Team USA to “win!” in a video posted by hockey veteran Angela Ruggiero on Wednesday.
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