Barring a miracle – and that is not an exaggeration – it will be Canada versus the United States in the womens hockey gold medal game Feb. 20 in Sochi. Why? Because they always meet in the final, right? Well, nearly always. Sweden somehow managed to make it into the gold medal game at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. But in the 19 Olympic and World Championship final games since womens hockey arrived on the international stage in 1999, it has been Canada against the United States 18 times. Canada begins by facing Switzerland on Saturday at 8:00 a.m. in their first game of the tournament - watch it live on CBC TV and streaming at cbc.ca/olympics. The mere fact Canada has won the past three of four gold medals at the Olympics – losing only in Nagano in 1998 – would make them the favorites in the eyes of many. However, their victories in the last three Olympic Games really have nothing to do with this years tournament. More relevant is the fact the United States defeated Canada in the last four meetings of their seven-game pre-Olympic exhibition series. Canada is the defending Olympic champion, but the Americans have a little swagger. Dan Church knows that as well as anybody. Church resigned as coach of the Canadian womens Olympic team in December and was replaced by former Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen. Team USA is deep at every position. They also have scoring at every position – forward and defence – and they have a lot of speed. “Their young forwards especially are extremely quick,” Church said. “If you give them room in the neutral zone theyll always find a way to create. They are really gifted at getting the puck into the scoring area; even if its not a direct shot just getting it there so now your defenders and goaltender really have to be on top of things. They are always creating offence with their speed.” Canada will need to have a forward to force the Americans to one half of the ice surface and break off their speed and their ability to attack or counterattack. Scoring problems Even if its overall team speed doesnt match that of the United States, Canada traditionally can hold its own with any team in the world in terms of offence, and is better than most. That said, Canada has had some difficulty scoring, particularly against the United States, leading up to the Sochi Games. Rebecca Johnston, a scoring machine at Cornell for four seasons, has speed and skill and the ability to take it to the front of the net. The 25-year-old had a goal and six points in five games at the 2010 Olympics and will be expected to exceed those numbers this year. Jenn Wakefield, 24, has plenty of international experience, but is making her Olympic debut. She is another go-to forward for Canada. Of course there are also veterans Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford and Caroline Ouellette, all of whom can dominate a game. Wickenheiser in particular can be a dangerous scorer when she is shooting the puck. Hefford is strong around the net and Ouellette remains an offensive catalyst. As for Canadas young players, Natalie Spooner is a power forward with great hands and Megan Agosta-Marciano can be a world beater when shes playing at her best. Countering for Team USA will be Kelli Stack. She is a game-breaker and every time shes on the ice she can create for herself and her teammates. Stack has great vision. “She is an offensive threat every time she touches the puck,” Church said. “You always have to worry about her. She is the offensive catalyst for the team.” Amanda Kessel, the younger sister of Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil, is also a really strong player. Like her brother, she has speed to burn and plenty of offensive upside. She was the collegiate national player of the year with the University of Minnesota in 2013. Physically, Canada has an edge over the United States, but the Americans do not fear Canadas physical game - just as Canada believes it can overcome USAs speed. In the end, it could come down to goaltending. Canada believes its three goalies, Shannon Szabados, Charline Labonte and Genevieve Lacasse, could all backstop the team to a gold in Sochi. Szabados will be the starter and is looking for her second Olympic gold medal as a starter. Early in the season it seemed like Team USA was leaning toward Jessie Vetter getting the job as the starter, but down the stretch, Molly Schaus got more action. Schaus is better technically, but Vetter is very athletic. The starter will likely be the goalie the coaching staff feels is the hotter of the two entering the tournament. The bottom line for Canada is that it can win a fourth straight gold in Sochi, but reputation at this tournament means squat. Its not about what was; its about what is. Fake Vans Old Skool .B. -- Canadian pairs skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford went from elated to frustrated in the span of a few minutes. Cheap Fake Vans .J. Barea during a three-game shooting slump that was getting him booed off his home court with regularity. http://www.fakevans.com/. And fellow Leaf, Jake Gardiner, hiking in Whistler. Fake Vans From China . The Opening Day starter played 53 games this season hitting .192 with nine home runs and 25 RBI. Red Sox manager John Farrell has decided to start Jose Iglesias at third base as of late instead of Middlebrooks. Fake Vans Online . While Chelsea stayed two points behind leader Arsenal courtesy of Etoos hat trick, seventh-place United slipped 14 points from the summit this weekend. And the gap from the Champions League places is growing as well, with Liverpool six points ahead in fourth. SAN FRANCISCO -- Mike Leake has gotten stronger every year, and his fastball velocity has increased as a result. Even so, he still doesnt know where all those strikeouts came from. Leake allowed four hits in eight innings and had a career-high 12 strikeouts in the Cincinnati Reds 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night. "It didnt feel like that many," said Leake, who allowed one run and walked one, which was intentional. "But I guess its a big accomplishment. Im not high on strikeouts." Cincinnati manager Bryan Price thinks Leake (6-6) could be a strikeout pitcher if that was his goal. "Hes pretty consistent hitting 93, 94 mph with his fastball," said the former pitching coach. "Thats not a fastball you have to apologize for. He could throw more pitches and be less effective but strike out more guys." Brandon Phillips had three hits, including a home run and double, and scored twice in his return to the lineup for the Reds, who won their fifth in six games. Leake, still looking for his first major league shutout, didnt try to talk his way onto the mound for the ninth. He hasnt pitched a complete game in nearly two years. Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth for his 15th save in 16 chances. "We have a good closer, why not use him?" Leake said. Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier each added two hits for the Reds. Bruce doubled in the seventh and has an extra-base hit in each of his last seven games, the longest streak by a Reds player since Dave Parker did it in eight straight in 1986. "We seem to play well here," Bruce said. "With this pitching staff, if you put runs on the board, you have a chance." Adam Duvall, making his major league debut, hit a home run for the Giants, who lost for the 12th time in 16 games. Ryan Vogelsong (5-4) allowed a run on five hits over six innings one day after Tim Lincecum threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. He struck out seven and walked one. "I rubbed up against him before the game, but it didnt work," Vogelsong said. "I just wasnt good enough." Jean Machi, who allowed Phillips home run leading off the seventh, had his scoreless sstreak end at 25 1-3 innings.dddddddddddd Zack Cozart and Ryan Ludwick also drove in runs for the Reds, who have won eight of their last 10 games, including playoffs, in San Francisco. The Reds ended a scoreless duel with a run in the fifth. Phillips, who missed the last three games with a bruised heel, led off with a single. Two outs later, Cozart doubled him home. Bruce followed Phillips homer with a double and scored on Ludwicks single. Duvall hit a 0-2 pitch from Leake into the left field bleachers to put the Giants on the scoreboard. "Thats a feeling Ill never forget running the bases," Duvall said. "I tried to tell myself it was the same game, just a bigger crowd." Leake allowed a two-out double to Buster Posey in the first and then retired 15 of the next 16 hitters before Hunter Pences triple in the sixth. Leake improved to 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA in four starts at AT&T Park. The Giants also threw out two runners at home. Billy Hamilton tried to score on Devin Mesoracos shallow fly to second baseman Joe Panik in the sixth, and Brandon Crawford nailed Mesoracso trying to score on Phillips double to centre field in the eighth. NOTES: Frazier has a 13-game hitting streak against the Giants. ... Chapman has at least one strikeout in each of his last 33 appearances, the longest active streak by a reliever and the fourth longest since 1900. . Reds LHP Tony Cingrani, optioned to Triple A Louisville on Friday, was placed on the minor league disabled list with a strained shoulder. That came as a surprise to the Reds, who sent him down to work. ... RHP Johnny Cueto (7-5, 1.86), the major league leader in ERA, pitches for the Reds on Friday night. Hes won his last two decisions. . LHP Madison Bumgarner (9-4, 2.63) goes for the Giants. Hes 2-2 in five starts against the Reds. ... Giants 1B Michael Morse was scratched because of illness. . Duvall became the 11th Giant since 1958 to homer in his first game. ... The Junior Giants Stretch Drive Fund, created in honour of Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, began Thursday to help provide baseball programs in 90 underserved communities. Information can be obtained at the website jrgiant.org. ' ' '