Goalie saves thoughts for cancer fighter

 

Matt Cook is in her thoughts off the ice and on her head when she's between the pipes, and that fits Shannon Szabados just fine at these Vancouver 2010 Games.

 
 
 
 
 

Matt Cook is in her thoughts off the ice and on her head when she's between the pipes, and that fits Shannon Szabados just fine at these Vancouver 2010 Games.

Every member of the Canadian women's hockey team has dedicated these Olympics to someone in their life. For Szabados, the goalie from Edmonton who made her Olympic debut in a 10-1 win over the Swiss on Monday at UBC Thunderbird Arena, it was her old junior teammate Cook.

Cook, 22, has already lost his leg to cancer and he's battling the disease once again. Szabados says that she's been communicating with Cook, also of Edmonton, regularly this week and, as a tribute to him, she's put a sticker on the back plate of her mask that reads "FLM," for Fight Like Matt.

The stingy International Olympic Committee rules folk made her tape over her own name on her mask, but they've let the homage to Cook stay.

"I don't ask questions ... I have no idea," Szabados grinned when quizzed on why the Cook mention made the grade with the IOC. "But am I okay with it? You bet."

She's also rounded up sponsors in a bid to raise money for cancer research in his name. According to shannonszabados.com,she's donated nearly $5,000 on his behalf.

"He's my inspiration," said Szabados, who guessed that she would have a text message from Cook waiting for her after her post-game media session Monday. "I've got him on my mask and in my heart. He's an amazing person."

He and everybody else in Szabados's life had to be happy with how things went for her Monday. She didn't get a minute of action at the world championship last April in Hameenlinna, Finland.

She wasn't busy but she was solid in an 11-save effort, highlighted by a blocker save off a close-in Darcia Leimgruber chance in the first period. Leimgruber, who's a freshman at the University of Maine, beat her on a rebound in the second period, a goal that Szabados didn't have a chance on.

"It was nice to get in a game and handle the puck and get some shots and get a feel for the crowd and the atmosphere," Szabados said of playing before 5,413 fans.

Coach Melody Davidson maintains that she has three No. 1 goalies, so, after Kim St-Pierre got the call in the 18-0 romp over Slovakia in the opener, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see Charline Labonte play in Canada's next game, a Wednesday showdown with Sweden.

"A second game would be better, and a third game would be better than that, and a chance in the gold medal game would be even better than that," said Szabados. "But I'm just grateful for any ice time I get right now.

"There's pressure going in. Kim and Charlie are great goalies. At the same time, I have maybe the least pressure of the three, because it's my first Olympics and I'm the youngest. That's how I try to look at it."

Canada applied considerable pressure on Swiss goalie Florence Schelling and the Northeastern University sophomore sparkled up until giving up four goals in just under three minutes in the third period.

She ended up allowing the 10 goals on 55 shots in just under 52 minutes of work. Dominique Slongo had seven saves in the remainder.

Meghan Agosta led Canada with two goals, while Cherie Piper and Hayley Wickenheiser both had one goal and two assists. Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps, Rebecca Johnston, Catherine Ward and Sarah Vaillancourt had one goal and one assist each. Marie-Philip Poulin rounded out the markers.

ONE-SIDED BOOS: Canada coach Davidson admits that her team has received e-mails from fans who have called them "classless" for their 18-0 win over the Slovaks on Saturday and she says that, along with some of the media criticism, has been difficult.

"They care a lot about the game," said Davidson. "They care about what Canadians think because they consider themselves leaders."

She wondered if there's a "double standard," because the Canadian world junior team hasn't received the same type of attention when it has won by blowout scores.

 
 
 
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