BRAMPTON, Ont. — Sarah Fillier put forth a dominant effort on Saturday. And it fuelled yet another Canadian trip to a gold-medal final with eyes on a third straight world title.
Fillier had a hat trick in leading Canada to a 5-1 semifinal win over Switzerland at the women's world hockey championship. Canada will meet archrival U.S. — which routed Czechia 9-1 in the other semifinal — in the gold-medal game on Sunday.
"She's a dominant player that plays the game so fast," Canada head coach Troy Ryan said. "She finds ways to score, she's just hungry. She wants to score goals and doesn't care how she does it."
With her third of the game, Fillier put herself in a tie for the tournament lead in goals alongside Sweden's Lina Ljungblom with seven. The Georgetown, Ont., native said seeing all the hats fly on the ice was quite a moment for her.
"It's really special," the 22-year-old Fillier said. "To score a hat trick on Canadian soil, 15 minutes away from my hometown, (in front of) tons of friends and family and then sharing that moment with my teammates … it's really special."
Linemate Natalie Spooner said a joke of theirs from the last Olympics turned into Fillier actually getting on the board.
"The (Beijing) Olympics was my first tournament with her and we kinda had a joke, 'OK, no one else could score 'til you score,' because the first three games of (that) tournament she scored the first goal in every single game," said Spooner, who had three assists on Saturday.
"I said the same thing to her tonight and the next shift, she scored, so looks like I have to say that every game. She's a goal-scorer. She's always in the right spots, she's got a wicked shot, so she does what she does best and it showed tonight."
Jamie Lee Rattray and Rebecca Johnston scored the other goals for Canada. Ann-Renee Desbiens made eight saves.
It will be the fourth straight gold-medal final between Canada and the U.S. Canada has defeated the Americans at the last two worlds and the 2022 Beijing Olympics, and also won their preliminary matchup 4-3 in a shootout on Monday.
The U.S. defeated Canada for gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and won five straight world titles before then.
"It's exciting," Ryan said of the upcoming rivalry game. "There are so many players that have been in that game, so many coaches that have been in those situations before.
"The biggest thing that comes with it is we know what to expect. … I think the one part people should be excited about is it's gonna be a good show and I think the fans are gonna appreciate women's hockey, for sure."
Alina Muller scored the lone goal, while Andrea Braendli stopped 54-of-59 shots for Switzerland. The Swiss will take on Czechia in Sunday's bronze-medal game.
"I told them, 'You better put your big girl boots on today' because after what happened against Sweden, they're not gonna lay back," said Switzerland's Canadian-born head coach Colin Muller.
"But you just see that our talent, when we get the puck under the pressure and that speed, it's a different game for our girls because they're used to Swiss women's hockey where the tempo isn't half that high."
Canada was held scoreless on 14 shots in the opening period. The Swiss defence blocked a number of shots, while Braendli was brilliant in snuffing out excellent Canadian scoring chances.
Swiss captain and leading scorer Lara Stalder was handed a game misconduct penalty for checking Sarah Nurse from behind with 1:33 remaining in the first. It was initially ruled a five-minute penalty before officials reviewed the play and altered the call.
"Losing Lara hurt us a lot," Muller said. "I didn't think the hit was as bad as they thought compared to what we got the other night."
Canada's scoring struggles persisted in the second period until Fillier broke through 11:06 into the frame. She fired in a wrist shot from the slot off a dish from Nurse, sending the Canadian crowd into an absolute frenzy.
Fillier scored again with 2:56 remaining in the second, putting the puck home from in front while getting checked to the ice.
Rattray netted a power-play goal 4:48 into the third period to make it 3-0. Fillier then completed her hat trick with 4:56 left in the third to a deafening standing ovation from the home crowd.
Muller ended Desbiens's shutout bid with 2:04 left in the game on the power play.
Johnston added the finishing touches, scoring with just a second remaining.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2023.
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press