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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 03:13 GMT

Canada claim Olympic title

Canada 3-2 United States

Canada have won the gold medal in the women's ice hockey with victory over the United States.

The victory avenges the defeat they suffered at American hands four years ago in Nagano, and is the country's first Olympic ice hockey gold in 50 years.

Caroline Oulette gave the Canadians a 1-0 lead after just 1:45 into the game.

Despite being pegged back early in the second period, Canada reasserted their lead three minutes later and never let it slip again.

The Canadians opted for a physical game and incurred 13 penalties, including eight in a row.

"We knew we were going to have to battle, that it wasn't going to be pretty," Hayley Wickenheiser, the tournament's most valuable player, said.

However, Kim St Pierre's outstanding form in goal kept the States at bay.

St Pierre, who stopped 25 shots, was beaten for the first time during a power play two minutes into the second period, Katie King's deflecting a shot beyond the netminder.

However, within two minutes Wickenheiser had pounced on a loose puck, powering a shot into the top corner of the net to restore Canada's lead.

Jayna Hefford made it 3-1 with a clever play to control a long pass from Becky Kellar.

She broke in all alone on Sara Decosta and her backhand trickled past the US goalie and into the net with one second left in the second period.

The States pressed in the third and finally beat St. Pierre with 3:30 to play when Karen Bye's power-play slapshot from the point snuck past the Canadian goalie.

Sweden 2-1 Finland

Sweden took the bronze medal with a 2-1 win over Finland.

The Swedes, who were pre-match underdogs, scored both their goals in the first period.

Evelina Samuelsson netted twice, the first off a high rebound from Finnish goalie Tuula Puputti.

The 17-year-old scored her second in a scramble on a power play after 12 minutes.

But Samuelsson was over-shadowed by another youngster, 15-year-old Kim Martin.

Swedish coach Christian Yngve reached the decision to start Martin over veteran Annica Ahlen by tossing a coin.

"Sweden has a good history of coin tossing," he joked.

But the gamble paid off.

Martin saved 32 shots, including four from point-blank range.

She was beaten only once, midway through the second period, when Hanne Sikio's shot bounced through her legs.

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