Whatever the cafeterias at the 2022 Winter Olympics are putting in the smoked salmon has been good for Canada’s Sarah Fillier.
The 21-year-old and youngest member of Team Canada credited her go-to breakfast item in Beijing for a rousing women’s hockey Olympics debut, where she's netted four goals through the first two games.
In reality, it’s been Fillier’s talent that has already etched her name as one of the faces of hockey for years to come. She helped Canada dominate in each of its first two games, with a 12-1 win over Switzerland on Thursday and an 11-1 win over Finland on Saturday.
Fillier’s goals have been spectacular. Twice, she’s scored from near-impossible angles. Her first goal came 64 seconds into her debut, when she batted the puck out of mid-air from the side of the goal into the net. In her second game, Fillier popped a backhand from close range over the right shoulder of Finnish goaltender Meera Raisanen.
"Talk about making an entrance to the Olympics,” said her teammate, Renata Fast. “To score on her first shift, to bat the puck out of the air, that is so skillful."
Fillier’s two other goals were hard wrist shots that the goaltenders had little chance to see, let alone stop.
In both games, she scored the first goal less than 70 seconds in.
“I think when you score early, it just deflates a team,” Fillier said. “When we just keep attacking, it’s really hard to get one back on us, and we can really play with them on our heels.”
Canada’s 23-2 goal differential to kick off the preliminary round sent a message to the world, but specifically to the United States — which beat Canada in the gold medal game at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
With the two countries again expected to battle for the gold in Beijing, the U.S. will have to contend with Canada’s newest star on the ice.
"It is a dream come true,” Fillier said after her debut. “I have been waiting a long, long time for this.”
She added that she “wants to win a goal medal with this team.”
“We’re super close,” Fillier said.
Canada’s next game is Sunday at 11:10 p.m. ET against the ROC before facing the United States in an early test in the preliminary round on Monday, also at 11:10 p.m. ET.
Fillier, who plays alongside her twin sister Kayla at Princeton, grew up in Ontario where she competed in boys hockey until the age of 12. She already had a wealth of international experience before her collegiate career began in 2018, competing in two IIHF Women’s World U18 Championships and was the only collegiate freshman on the roster for Team Canada at the Four Nations Cup in 2018.
That year, Fillier also led the NCAA in scoring with 22 goals and 35 assists in 29 games her freshman season at Princeton.
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At the Olympics, Fillier has been humble about her hot start, crediting her linemates, acknowledging the team chemistry and pointing to the overall goal of a gold medal rather than any individual objectives.
“Luckily, pucks are going in,” Fillier said. “I’m feeling really lucky lately.”
It might take some time for Fillier, already dubbed “Canada’s rising women’s hockey superstar” by the Toronto Star, to adapt to breaking out into the world scene.
"I don't think it has sunk in yet,” Fillier said of her first goal. “I really did not know how it went in. I had to watch it on a replay."
If the first two games are any indication, Fillier will have a lot more of her goals to watch back — and her “dream” Olympic debut might just end with a storybook goal medal.