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U SPORTS – ALMATY, Kazakhstan (U SPORTS) – The Canadian women’s hockey team is off to the gold-medal final at the 28th Winter Universiade, one of many stellar performances by the red and white delegation on the eighth day of competition at the biennial FISU Games.

Team Canada website: http://en.usports.ca/universiade/winter/2017/
Almaty 2017 website: https://almaty2017.com
Live streaming: www.livefisu.tv/  
Results, Statistics & Standings: http://www.fisu.net/results/winter-universiade/winter-universiade-2017-main-results

Other Canadian highlights on Saturday included a quarter-final victory in men’s hockey, a first-place finish in pool play in women’s curling, and a 12th position by alpine skier Philippe Rivet in the men’s giant slalom.

In women’s hockey, Canada dominated the United States 8-1 in the early semifinal to advance to its fifth consecutive FISU championship match.

The U SPORTS all-stars hope to capture their fourth FISU title Monday at 8 p.m. local (9 a.m. EST) when they battle Russia, in a rematch of the 2015 final. The contest will be streamed live on www.livefisu.tv/.  

Since women’s hockey was added to the Universiade program, Canada claimed the first three banners in 2009 (Harbin, China), 2011 (Erzurum, Turkey) and 2013 (Trentino, Italy), before suffering a 3-0 gold-medal loss at the hands of the Russians two years ago in Granada, Spain. 

Alexandra Labelle of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Que., had three goals and one assist for the second consecutive game and continued to make her case for tournament MVP. Through four games, the University of Montreal forward leads the tourney in goals (9) and points (13).

Defenceman Erica Rieder of Regina and forwards Kaitlin Willoughby of Prince Albert, Sask., Jessica Cormier of Cap-aux-Meules, Que., Rachel Marriott of Waterloo, Ont., and Catherine Dubois of Charlesbourg, Que., also scored in the lopsided victory, while forward Daley Oddy of Cranbrook, B.C., collected a trio of assists.

The Canucks dominated from start to finish and led 3-0 after the opening period and 5-1 after 40 minutes. Shots on goals were 58-12, including a whopping 23-2 advantage in the first frame, 21-4 in the second and 14-6 in the third.

“On my first goal, it was really a great pass by Sharman. I switched lines and we really didn’t know each other that much. Oddy, Sharman and I, we saw each other really well on the ice,” said Labelle. “This was a total team effort. We didn’t think we’d beat the U.S. by such a score. But we still have some work to do if we want to beat the Russians because they’re a very talented team. We’re really looking forward to the final.”

Head coach Rachel Flanagan from the University of Guelph was pleased with her team’s performance.

“We’re really excited to be going to the gold medal game.  The U.S. pressured us pretty hard, we expected them to sit back more. So we had to make some adjustments. I thought the girls had a good game. We feel very good moving forward. Of course we have a few things to work on in practice but we’ll be ready for Monday’s game.”

In men’s hockey, the Canadians survived a scare before edging Latvia 5-2 in the quarter-final round, a result which sets up a semifinal date with archrival Russia.

The much-anticipated contest between Canada (4-0) and reigning Universiade champion Russia (4-0) is set for Tuesday at 4 p.m. local (5 a.m. EST), live on the web at www.livefisu.tv/.  

It will mark the fourth straight semifinal involving the two countries at the biennial tournament. The Russians prevailed in 2015 (3-2 in a shootout) and 2011 (4-2), while the Canucks won 4-2 in 2013 in Trentino, Italy, en route to their fourth FISU title. The long-time foes had also met in the 2007 and 2009 finals, with Canada winning the former and Russia taking the latter.

Michael McNamee, a Carleton University forward from Perth, Ont., led the charge against Latvia with two goals, including the game-winner with 8.9 seconds left in what had been a rough second period for the Ontario University Athletics all-stars.

Leading 2-0 after 20 minutes, Canada saw a physical Latvian team tie things up in the middle frame on a pair of highlight-reel goals. The OUA standouts regrouped in the third however, adding two insurance markers and dominating 13-5 in shots on goal to finish the night with a 38-23 advantage.

Pierre-Olivier Morin of Trois-Rivières, Que., with his fifth of the competition, Corey Durocher of Ottawa and Slater Doggett of Oakville, Ont., also scored for the winners, while rearguard Alex Basso of Toronto chipped in with a pair of assists.

“There’s nothing wrong with some adversity at this tournament. I give full credit to Latvia and their coaching staff. They made adjustments that we didn’t see on video the last couple of days, so full credit to them,” said Team Canada head coach Brett Gibson from Queen’s University.

“I’m proud of our guys. They came to work, we faced adversity… we became a hockey team tonight. They responded after the second period. I thought we had a horrible second period, I challenged them between periods to go back to playing our way, and they went to work right from the first shift of the third. It makes me proud as a coach.”

“Obviously there was a little stress there. They’re a fast team and we sort of panicked there in the second. Getting that goal, it was just big for the team, it was big to have the lead going into the third,” said McNamee, who now has three goals at the tournament and leads the team with nine points in four games. “We weren’t surprised by the opposition. Anybody can win on any night. It’s the quarter-finals, so obviously they’re going to come out and play their hardest. They gave us a good fight.”  

Gibson and his players couldn’t be more excited to face a powerful Russian team that boasts nine players with KHL experience on its roster.

“I get chills just hearing those two words. I’ve been waiting my whole life to coach in a Canada-Russia game. I’ll make sure our guys are ready to go,” said Gibson.

“It’s a first time for many of us. It’s exciting, it’s big. There’s obviously tons of history behind the rivalry. We’re looking forward to it,” added McNamee.

In women’s curling, Kelsey Rocque and her foursome from the University of Alberta were locked in a three-way tie for first place with Great Britain and Switzerland heading into their final round-robin game, with all three teams showing 6-2 records.

Of the three leaders, Canada was the only one to take care of business on Saturday however as Team Rocque defeated Norway 10-5 in nine ends while the British lost 8-4 to China and the Swiss were dominated 9-3 by Russia.

Those results gave the Canadians the No. 1 rankings heading into the playoffs, followed by Russia (6-3) and Sweden (6-3). Great Britain (6-3) and Switzerland (6-3) face off in a tie-breaker on Sunday, with the winner advancing to a semifinal against Canada on Monday at 9 a.m. local (Sunday at 10 p.m. EST).

Against Norway, Team Rocque saw their rivals jumped to an early 3-0 lead but quickly righted the ship with three points in the third end, followed by deuces in the fifth, seventh and eighth.

“We were just missing some shots that we don’t normally miss and they were playing exceptionally well,” Rocque said of the slow start against the Norwegians. “We have to give them credit, the skip was making everything, she was playing amazing. We picked it up towards the end, and got the breaks when we needed them.
 
“Everything kind of just lined up for us. We won the games that we needed to, did what we could, and everything just seemed to work out in our favour. Any team we play moving forward, we’re going to have to bring our A game. We have to keep our level of play up, and hopefully come out on the good side.”
 
Coach Garry Coderre has full confidence in his troops heading into the medal round.
 
“Finishing first is exciting because it gives us control of hammer and rock selection, hammer being the key component. It’s great, but it’s only step one in the competition. It’s now down to the Final Four. At a minimum, we know we will battle for a medal in some shape or form.”

On the men’s side, Canada didn’t enjoy the same success in Almaty. Aaron Squires and his Wilfrid Laurier crew were officially ousted from the playoffs on Saturday morning following an 8-4 loss to South Korea, before ending their competition in the evening with a 9-5 victory over Norway for a 4-5 record, good for seventh place overall. 

“We struggled this week. It’s a little disappointing. We would have liked to represent Canada a little better,” said Squires. “It’s just one of those weeks where breaks don’t go your way and the other teams are making everything. It’s unfortunate but those weeks happen. Probably could have been a little more preparation, we didn’t have much time as a team coming into the event. It’s disappointing, but we’ll be ok.”

In alpine skiing, Rivet, a veteran of four FISU Games from Saint-Lambert, Que., was 14th out of 77 competitors after the first run of the giant slalom thanks to a time of 1:06.55 and managed to move up two spots after navigating the second leg in 1:09.08, for a cumulative time of 2:15.63.

It was the best Universiade result of his career for the 24-year-old finance student from the University of New Hampshire, who had previously represented Canada in 2015 (Granada, Spain), 2013 (Trentino, Italy) and 2011 (Erzurum, Turkey).      

Other Canadian results in Saturday’s event at Shymbulak Ski Resort included Justin Beaurivage of Victoriaville, Que., in 32nd place (2:18.40), Simon-Claude Toutant of Joliette, Que., in 33rd (2:18.80), William Mercier-Robin of Quebec City in 40th (2:20.01), Vincent Lajoie of Montreal in 41st (2:20.28), as well as William Schuessler-Bédard of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., who did not finish. Italy’s Giulio Giovanni Bosca won gold in 2:12.77.

“Things went well, but I made a few mistakes. In the first run, I struggled in the top section, and then in the second run it was the opposite. I was flying out of the gate and I had the third best time at the first interval, but when I got to the bottom I made a big mistake and it cost me,” said Rivet, who made his first Universiade appearance six years ago while at Champlain College and his second while studying at the University of Montreal. “Of all my appearances at the Universiade, it’s my best result. But I was shooting for a top 10 this year, so I’m a little disappointed.”

It was a first race in Almaty for Rivet, who will take part in the team event on Sunday and in the slalom on Tuesday.

“In the slalom, there are many very good skiers at these Games, mostly Europeans, but I will give it everything I have. It would be very cool to make a top 10.”

In cross country skiing, two Canadian pairs took part in the mixed team sprint but both failed to advance past the opening round. Both duos competed in the second semifinal, where Andrée- Anne Théberge of Lévis, Que., and Alexis Morin of Victoriaville, Que., finished seventh (20:41.75), while Emma Camicioli of Edmonton and Gavin Shields of Thunder Bay, Ont., ranked ninth (21:33.47).

RESULTS FROM SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4

ALPINE SKIING

Men’s Giant Slalom
1. Giulio Giovanni Bosca, Italy, 2:12.77; 2. Joel Mueller, Switzerland, 2:12.99; Cedric Noger, Switzerland, 2:13.39; 12. Philippe Rivet, Saint-Lambert, Que., 2:15.63; 32. Justin Beaurivage, Victoriaville, Que., 2:18.40; 33. Simon-Claude Toutant, Joliette, Que., 2:18.80; 40. William Mercier-Robin, Quebec City, Que., 2:20.01; 41. Vincent Lajoie, Montreal, Que., 2:20.28; DNF William Schuessler-Bédard, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

CROSS COUNTRY SKIING

Mixed Team Sprint

Semifinal 2
7. Canada 1 (Andrée-Anne Théberge, Lévis, Que.; Alexis Morin, Victoriaville, Que.), 20:41.75, does not advance; 9. Canada 2 (Emma Camicioli, Edmonton, Alta.; Gavin Shields, Thunder Bay, Ont.), 21:33.47, does not advance.

CURLING

Women’s Preliminary Round (9 matches)

Game 9
CAN    0 0 3 0 1 2 0 2 2 x – 10
NOR    2 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 x – 5

Canada (7-2) finishes first in preliminary round, advances to semifinals on Sunday at 10 p.m. EST (Monday 9 a.m. local), faces winner of tie-breaker between Great Britain (6-3) and Switzerland (6-3).

Men’s Preliminary Round (9 matches)

Game 8
KOR    1 0 5 0 0 0 1 0 1 x – 8
CAN    0 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 x – 4

Game 9
CAN    0 2 1 0 0 3 0 0 2 1 – 9
NOR    1 0 0 0 1 0 2 1 0 0 – 5

Canada (4-5) finishes seventh in preliminary round, does not advance.

MEN’S HOCKEY

Canada (4-0) wins 5-2 vs. Latvia (2-2), advances to semifinals, faces Russia (4-0) on Tuesday, February 7 at 5 a.m. EST (4 p.m. local).

WOMEN’S HOCKEY

Canada (4-0) wins 8-1 vs. United States (1-2), advances to final, faces Russia (3-0) on Monday, February 6 at 9 a.m. EST (8 p.m. local).

About the Winter Universiade
 
The Winter Universiade is a biennial international multi-sport event open to competitors who are at least 17 and less than 28 years of age as of January 1 in the year of the Games. Participants must be full-time students at a post-secondary institution (university, college, CEGEP) or have graduated from a post-secondary institution in the year preceding the event.

The Almaty Universiade will feature eight compulsory sports and four optional sports. Compulsory sports: alpine skiing, biathlon, ice hockey, curling, cross country skiing, short track speed skating, figure skating and snowboarding. Optional sports: ski jumping, nordic combined, freestyle skiing and long-track speed skating.

About U SPORTS

U SPORTS is the national brand for University Sports in Canada. Every year, over 12,000 student-athletes and 500 coaches from 56 universities vie for 21 national championships in 12 different sports. U SPORTS also provides higher performance international opportunities for Canadian student-athletes at Winter and Summer Universiades, as well as numerous world university championships. For further information, visit usports.ca or follow us on:

Twitter: @USPORTSca / @USPORTSIntl
Facebook: @USPORTSCanada / @USPORTSIntl
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Snapchat: @USPORTSca

-U SPORTS-

For more information:

Michel Bélanger
Communications Manager
Team Canada
Cell in Almaty: (+) 774 7619 2403
belanger@usports.ca

Ken Saint-Eloy
Manager, Communications
U SPORTS
Cell: 647-871-7595
ksainteloy@usports.ca