Jenn Wakefield’s powerful shot leads Canada to first win at women’s worlds

Canada's Jennifer Wakefield (9) celebrates a first period goal against Russia in the IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship. (Jason Kryk/CP)

PLYMOUTH, Mich. — It had been a while since Meghan Agosta played on a line with Jenn Wakefield, but over the years the three-time Olympic medallist has had a consistent message for her teammate, who’s a solid presence at five-foot-10 and 172 pounds: “Shoot the puck. Nobody’s gonna stop it.”

It’s pretty good advice.

On Monday, Wakefield struck twice for Canada, including what stood as the winner in a resounding 8-0 victory over Russia at the IIHF Women’s World Championship.

Making it all the more resounding is the fact it’s Canada’s first win here, and on the team’s third try, after losing their opener to the defending champion Americans, and then dropping an historic first-ever game to Finland on Saturday.

“That was much better,” a grinning Wakefield said, minutes after the win. “I think a lot of people were able to connect the dots, and that’s the biggest thing. We stuck to the game plan and played 60 minutes, and were able to put some pucks in the net.”

For the first time all tournament, Canada had a lead. It took 134 minutes and 30 seconds of play—nearly seven periods—for that to happen here. It came on the power play, when Wakefield fired a slap shot through traffic to make it 1-0 against Russia at the 14:30 mark of the first.

“[Haley] Irwin did a really good job taking her eyes away,” Wakefield said of the screen provided by her centreman.

And then the floodgates opened. Canada got goals from seven different players, and converted three times on the power play.

“I think we’re just taking smarter shots, and more shots,” Wakefield said.

Emily Clark, Natalie Spooner and Wakefield (for a second time) added goals in the first, to give Canada a 4-0 lead. Defenceman Erin Ambrose, Brianne Jenner, Agosta and rookie Sarah Potomak rounded out the scoring for the Canadians.

With two goals, Wakefield now has the second-most in the tournament.

When she’s not with the national team, the 27-year-old plays in a pro women’s league in Sweden, and last season she split her time between a division three pro men’s league and the SDHL women’s league there. She made the move to Sweden after she won Olympic gold in Sochi, wanting a new experience.

Playing for Linkoping HC in the men’s league, Wakefield said she had to adapt to being more of a small forward.

“I had big wingers that made sure none of the guys took liberties at me,” she said. “I held my own. I mean, I’m five-10 and pretty heavy for a girl,” she added, laughing. “It’s not like I’m five feet, so I threw my body around, but I’m not gonna go out and throw a massive open ice hit and fight a guy to get the team goin’, right? So, like, I didn’t do that.”

The right-winger isn’t dropping the gloves with Team Canada, either, but you’ll notice her big body presence on the ice here, the way she drives to the net and skates down the ice with little regard for opponents in her way.

“She’s a big player,” says Agosta, who plays left wing on the line with Irwin and Wakefield. “Nobody’s gonna move her if she’s in front of the net, and if she’s gonna battle for a puck, I know she’s gonna come out with it.”

Coach Laura Schuler, who’s been shaking up her forward lines with every game, was pleased with the chemistry shown by the Agosta-Irwin-Wakefield line on Monday.

“It’s feeding [Wakefield] the puck for sure, because her shot is so dangerous,” Schuler said. “I think we have one of the smartest players playing with her, in Haley Irwin. She does such a good job in making sure there’s a net-front presence for us…and “Gus” [Agosta] is probably one of the best playmakers that we have. I think the combination of those three worked well today, for sure.”

After the game, for the first time here at USA Hockey Arena, the Canadians stood on the blue line and heard their anthem, then saw their flag raised to the rafters.

That disappointing start and those first two losses now behind them, Canada is moving on past group play, having earned a bye into Thursday’s semi-final.

“We’re moving forward with this game,” Wakefield said. “It’s a good feeling.”

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