Rebecca Moloney recaps a hard-fought win by Team USA in their opening game against Finland.
The U.S. Women’s National ice hockey overcame momentum shifts and stellar goaltending by Noora Raty to win their first 2018 Olympic game against Finland.
The puck dropped to start the first period and Team USA set the pace for the first ten minutes. They played the puck with patience, taking it back in to their own end to look for offensive opportunities and using their speed to put up sustained attacks in the offensive zone.
Noora Räty really is out there trying to ruin team USA's day.— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) February 11, 2018
An early power play didn’t hurt things either. Two minutes in, Finland is called for hooking and the U.S. gets a scoring chance but they’re unable to capitalize.
On the other side of the ice, Finland started the game out slow with only two shots on goal in the first ten minutes. They found their feet at the tail end of the first period by playing more physically and catching up with the U.S. in shots on goal. With 5.8 seconds left in the first, Venla Hovi deflected the puck from behind the net passed U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney to make it 1-0, Finland.
Riding off their late first period goal, Finland opens the second period with momentum and the U.S. back on their heels. The two teams play a back and forth game until Monique Lamoureux-Morando grabs a loose puck and knocks it in for an unassisted goal for the U.S. to make it a tie game.
Less than three minutes later with the U.S. on the power play, Kendall Coyne hits one-timer from the right circle in to the net. The U.S. pulls ahead of Finland, 2-1.
While the U.S. found swagger in the 2nd period, Finland found frustration. They were outshoot by the U.S. 23 to 5, took three penalties, and gave up two goals. Only an absolutely phenomenal performance by goalie Noora Raty kept them in the game. Finland is notorious for producing excellent goaltenders and Raty is no exception.
“I definitely think getting more shots is something we’ve been focusing on. Noora’s a great goalie so we knew we would need to get a ton of shots in order to score. So, it’s something again we’ll be focusing on in the next games,” U.S. defender Lee Stecklein told USA Hockey in an interview following the game.
Finland tried to regain ground in the third period and had two power play scoring chances to try and get it going again. But an empty net goal at 59:47 by forward Dani Cameranesi seals the deal and Team USA defeats Finland 3-1.
Team USA is gunning for gold after 20 years of Olympic silver medals. Persevering through this hard-fought game is a good sign that they have the resilience to hopefully stand at the top of the podium at the end of the Olympic tournament.
“The drought is going to end at some point so it might as well end now, and I think we have the players to do it,” said Head Coach Rob Stauber as the team arrived in Korea at the start of the Olympics.
Next game: Team USA plays the Olympic Athletes from Russia on Tuesday, 4:20 a.m. PST.