International Ice Hockey Federation

U.S. hangs on for 5-3 win

Raty brilliant but penalties do in Finland

Published 03.04.2017 22:57 GMT-4 | Author Andrew Podnieks
U.S. hangs on for 5-3 win
PLYMOUTH, MICHIGAN - APRIL 3: USA's Kelli Stack #16 celebrates as the puck gets past Finland's Noora Raty #41 while Minttu Tuominen #15 looks on during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Hilary Knight scored two power-play goals; the Finns rallied from a 3-1 deficit; Hannah Brandt broke a 3-3 tie with a goal midway through the third period.

The win puts the Americans in first place and does Canada a favour. The Canadians now also qualify for the semif-finals directly, leaving Finland and Sweden to play in one of tomorrow's quarter-finals and Russia facing Germany in the other.

Finland's goalie Noora Raty was brilliant, facing 40 often difficult shots and stopping all but four (the last coming into an empty net).

More significant, though, the Finns have been sensational against the North Americans and show signs of being able to break though the gold-medal stranglehold the United States and Canada have held on the final game.

"We don't focus on the other team," said defenceman Lee Stecklein. "We focus on our team and how we're going to play. We know Finland can beat us, so we were ready to go today."

The difference was discipline, though, as the Finns took eight minor penalties to just four for the U.S. The Americans scored three goals with the extra man.

"I think last game maybe gave us more confidence that on a good day, when Noora is awesome, like today, we have a chance to win," acknowledged captain Jenni Hiirikoski, the most fluid skater in women's hockey. "But we gave them too many power plays, and that was a big reason they won."

"We stayed poised and focused," said U.S. captain Meghan Duggan. "We stuck to the game plan. It was great they beat Canada the other night--great for their program--but it didn't change how we prepared for our game tonight. We were ready, and happy with the win."

As in the previous game against Canada, the Finns struck first. This time it was a patient play by Susanna Tapani that created the goal. As she cut into the slot, she held the puck as players jostled for position and then fired to the back side past the glove of Alex Rigsby. It was a goalscorer's goal and staked the Finns to a 1-0 lead at 4:46.

"You never want to give up the first goal, but when we did we realized it was big and then turned around and focused on how we were playing," Stecklien continued. "All we cared about was getting that next goal."

Most of the period, though was dominated by the Americans. Whereas the Finns pressured the Canadian defence, tonight they loned up across the centre ice line trying to slow the speedy U.S. as they came through the middle.

It worked only to a degree, for once they penetrated the Finnish zone the Americans drove hard to the net. Finland took three penalties in the opening 20 minutes, the last two creating a 5-on-3.

The U.S. pounded shots at Noora Raty, and when one slipped loose Hilary Knight banged it in to tie the game at 12:21.

The Finns took five more penalties in the second (none by the U.S.), again costing the team momentum, and goals. Kendall Coyne gave the hosts an early lead with a power-play goal at 3:33, and the team kept  pouring it on.

Raty stopped captain Meghan Duggan on a breakaway,but soon after the U.S. had another lengthy two-man advantage on which they could not capitalize. But a later power play proved rewarding, and again it was Knight smacking home a loose puck in the crease at 15:43.

In the old days, this would have been the backbreaker for the Finns, but not now, not in 2017. They drew within a goal thanks to a wicked shot from Jenni Hiirikoski under the crossbar with 23.2 seconds left in the period, sending the Finns to the dressing room with some cause for hope.

That hope was substantiated midway through the final period when Michelle Karvinen flew down the left side, cut to the middle, and snapped a shot over Rigsby's glove to tie the game at 9:04.

"They capitalized on their chances," Stecklein added. "Whenever we made a turnover, they were coming back at us with speed and made the most of their shots. They played a great game."

Soon after Finland had a power play and didn't convert, and at 12:25 the U.S. regained the lead. Hannah Brandt tipped in a shot from the boards to send the home crowd into a frenzy, but we weren't done yet.

The Americans incurred a too-many-men penalty, followed by a hooking penalty by Alex Carpenter. The U.S., though, killed off the lengthy 3-on-5 to dodge a bullet.

 Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson aded an empty-netter with one minute left.