BEIJING, China — In five of the last six Winter Olympics, the gold medal in women's hockey has come down to the same two teams: the U.S. and Canada.
Both teams are once again favorites at the Beijing Games, and the rivalry has reached epic proportions.
"There is a lot of personal frustration, whether it's competitive or history," said Team USA forward Kelly Pannek.
"We're bred to hate each other," said U.S. forward Hannah Brandt.
The two teams are evenly matched. Since 1987 in international play, they've faced off 151 times. In those games, Canada has won 84 and the U.S. has won 67.
As for the Olympics, Canada and the U.S. have faced each other in the gold medal game in five of six Olympics – the exception was the 2006 Turin Games when Canada defeated Sweden. Canada won each of those games until 2018, when the U.S. took gold in Pyeongchang.
That means Team USA is in the unique position of defending its title for the first time since 2002.
"We know everyone is going to be coming after us, but we're going to be ready for it," Brandt said.
The U.S. women's hockey team takes to the ice for its first game against Finland – which won the bronze at the 2018 Games – at 6:10 a.m. MST Thursday.
Canada has its first game against Switzerland at 9:10 p.m. MST Wednesday.
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