With this year's Women's Hockey World Championships (or Women's Worlds) being held at the CAA Centre in Brampton, Ontario, the Canadians have had home advantage.
And they've needed it, too.
In yesterday's quarterfinal versus Sweden, they survived a real squeaker, winning 3-2 in overtime on Sarah Nurse's second goal of the game. Nurse's sweet wrist shot sent the crowd into a frenzy. Again. It was Canada's second-straight extra-time victory—they beat their fiercest rival, the United States, in a 4-3 game on Monday.
And if you thought those games were breathless fun, then the weekend is going to be even more exciting.
We've got two semifinals on Saturday—the USA vs. Czechia, followed by Canada vs. Switzerland. And then on Sunday? That's right, it's gold medal time!
If you follow women's hockey a little, then you'll know that the ending tends to be a very familiar one.
Canada vs. the United States in the gold medal game. How often does this happen? Basically always.
In the 21 previous tournaments, the United States has never missed playing in the final. Ever.
Canada has missed the final just once—in 2019 when the tournament was in Espoo, Finland and the Finns won silver.
This kind of dominance has a way of making some people feel that the tournament really doesn't matter until the final. While everyone loves to cheer for a winner, if your team always makes it, what's really at stake?
Now in 2023, we are once again on the edge of a possible Canada-US final. But the games getting here have felt different.
After barely surviving against Sweden and their exceptional goalie, Emma Soderberg, the message was clear: women's hockey is getting better everywhere it is played.
And that is awesome news for everyone.
Women's game is growing
After the game, Canadian captain Marie Philip-Poulin had this to say about how close the game was.
"It's the beauty of women's hockey. What we want is to push to get better and every (other) country is getting better. That's what we want."
How much better are other countries getting?
Canada's two most recent games versus Sweden were a pair of simple shutout victories, including an 11-0 blowout at the 2022 Winter Olympics. And while Canada massively outshot Sweden 54-14 and still dominated play, Sweden was smarter and tougher in their team defense.
Sweden also had the tournament's top scoring line: Lina Ljungblom, Hanna Olsson, and the marvelous Hilda Svensson, who is only 16!
And across the tournament, most of the biggest wins came not from Canada and the US, but countries like Finland, Germany, and Sweden. The gap between the two biggest countries in the sport and the rest of the pack is closing. And that will only make the sport more competitive and thrilling for players and fans alike!
Who have you got?
This tournament has shown that all of these countries are capable of elevating their game. Finland had been the highest scoring team in the tournament ... until Czechia held the Finns to a single goal in a 2-1 quarterfinal win.
Can they do the same to the Americans, causing them to miss the final for the first time ever?
And will two straight extra-time battles drain the Canadians enough that they could fall victim to a Swiss surprise?
It's going to be a thrilling weekend of women's hockey. We can't wait!
But since we do have to wait, why not relive Canada's wild victory over Sweden in the highlights video below!