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    Wednesday, February 4, 1998

    Winning big is no victory

    By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
    NAGANO --  The Canadian women's hockey team faces a rather delicate situation when it begins the Olympic tournament on Sunday against Japan.
     If the four-time world champions slaughter the overmatched Japanese as they have in past tournaments, they'll become the resident bad-girls of the Olympic Games.
      It's about saving face. A brutal one-sided victory over Team Japan on Sunday at the Aqua Wing Arena in front of a few thousand rabid Japanese fans would ensure a hostile audience for the rest of the tournament.
     And if Canada was to play the U.S. in the gold medal match on Feb. 17, which is the expected pairing, the last thing the usually popular Canadians would want is to have to play in front a pro-American crowd. Talk about a switch.
     On the other hand, coach Shannon Miller certainly does not want her troops to let up in the tournament opener, and pick up bad habits which may affect their play down the road.
     "It could be a delicate situation," said Miller, a Calgary police officer who is on leave.
     "You don't want to embarrass them, but we're here to win and we have to get better every single day.
     "I'll tell you one thing, if we're up a certain amount of goals, we won't pull back, but you'll see us try different things."
     The Japanese team is taking part in the women's hockey tournament here only because it is the host team. Japan didn't compete at last year's world championships in Kitchener. In fact, the Japanese haven't competed in a worlds since 1990. At the 1996 Pacific Rim championships in Richmond, B.C., the Japanese were outscored 55-2 in four games, including an 18-0 loss to Canada in the semis.
     Miller acknowledged that she has made some major line changes for this tournament, matching superstar Hayley Wickenheiser, who has 29 points in 25 international games this season, with Danielle Goyette and Stacy Wilson, while putting the team's leading scorer, Jayna Hefford of Kingston, who has 30 points in 25 games, with Nancy Drolet and Karen Nystrom. Wickenheiser and Hefford will play together on the power play.
     The coach candidly admitted that the changes are geared specifically toward beating the arch-rival Americans.