USA went seeking defend their Olympic title they earned back in Nagano in 1998. Leading up to the tournament, they dominated all opposition, not losing a game all season, including eight straight over Canada. Perenial rival Canada came into the tournament with a perfect IIHF Women's World Championship record intact, defeating USA in every final for a total of seven titles. Most everybody expected these two powerhouses in clash once again for Olympic glory and in the end that is how it played out. Before that during the Preliminary Round, things went mostly according to the script, save for Sweden edging Russia, coming off their first medal, a bronze during the 2001 Women's World Championship.
The competition really heated up during the Playoff Round. Finland was quite familiar with third place finishes, having claimed bronze during the last Olympics and in all but one World Championship. They lined up against Canada in one Semi Final. Finland was prepared for this match - more than prepared since they held a 3 - 2 lead after two periods. Canada held their composure, and potted five third period goals to advance to the final. Sweden, played USA tough in the other Semi Final, in the end bowing to the hosts by a score of 4 - 0. Backed by sensational goaltending by 15 year-old Kim Martin, Sweden completed a strong tournament by edging their Nordic neighbors 2 - 1 and skated away with the bronze medal.
That left the two women's superpowers to battle for Olympic glory. Team USA had not lost all season but in this one game winner-take-all setup, Canada seemed to have the most confidence and escaped Salt Lake City with a 3 - 2 nail-biting victory along with their first Olympic title. This high-energy affair proved once again to be an excellent showcase for the women's game. Individual stars included USA's Angela Ruggiero named Best Defender while Canada's Kim St-Pierre earned Best Goaltender honours. Kim's teammate Hayley Wickenheiser not only received the Best Forward Award, she also was voted the tournament MVP by the media.