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U.S. faces Canada for gold

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — This women’s hockey game shouldn’t need a mercy rule.

If you sat through all those blowouts by the United States and Canada, here’s your reward: The sport’s twin Goliaths will play for the gold medal today to end a tournament they’ve robbed of all suspense until now.

“I think it is one of the best rivalries in sport, male or female,” Canada coach Melody Davidson said.

It’s a great rivalry in part because there are no others in this sport. Canada and the United States have won all three gold medals in Olympic women’s hockey and all 12 world championships. There might not be another event at the Vancouver Games with a bigger gap between silver and bronze.

This next U.S.-Canada showdown is on MSNBC. In prime time today, NBC will air the always-anticipated women’s figure skating free skate.

Figure skating is an established Olympic sport with a wide following, and perhaps women’s hockey would be too if every game were like U.S.-Canada. But that’s not the case. This year’s tournament has been rife with tedious routs, and the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation had to reassure fans the sport would still be around in four years for the Sochi Games. He also suggested there might be a mercy rule then for games that are too one-sided.

There isn’t a rule like that this year, so in all, Canada has outscored its four opponents 46-2, and the U.S. has won by a combined 40-2.