USA vs. Canada, Winter Olympics hockey: Gold medal on the line in women's hockey

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The matchup that makes women's hockey great is upon us once more, as Canada and the United states meet for gold.

SB Nation 2014 Winter Olympic Coverage

It all comes down to one game between the two best women's hockey teams in the world, as it nearly always does.

After winning four straight head-to-head matchups in the run-up to these Olympics, Team USA stumbled against Canada in their preliminary-round matchup, losing 3-2 in a game where Canada controlled the pace of the entire hockey game. They'll be looking to avoid a repeat of that performance in Thursday's gold medal game.

USA vs Canada (Gold medal game)

Game time: 12 p.m. ET / 9 p.m. Sochi time
TV: NBC (USA), CBC (Canada)
Streaming: (USA), (Canada)

The United States will run the same lineup that they skated against Sweden in the semifinals. That lineup put forth perhaps the most dominant single game performance in the tournament, and the Americans are hoping that slight adjustments can help them against a Canada team they're more than familiar with.

For Canada, there is positive news on the injury front, as both Haley Irwin and Meaghan Mikkelson are good to go for the gold medal game. Irwin returned to action in Canada's quarterfinal against Switzerland, solidifying the checking line, which will likely be matched against Hilary Knight in the gold medal game.

The USA will continue to run with Jessie Vetter in goal, while Canada is going back to Shannon Szabados -- who beat the Swiss in the quarterfinals -- even though it was Charline Labonte who was in goal for the win over the USA in the preliminary games.

The reasoning for starting Szabados, who has put up slightly inferior numbers to Labonte this year, seems to be her shutout over the USA in 2010's gold medal game. That extra big game experience may come in handy and help her keep her composure in such a high pressure situation.

The Americans haven't won Olympic gold since women's hockey made its debut at the 1998 Nagano Games. The Canadians have won gold every Olympic year since -- 2002, 2006 and 2010.

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