Sochi, Russia • When the Americans scored a goal in the game’s first minute Saturday, the Olympic women’s hockey tournament immediately looked like the usual, two-team competition.
Ultimately, it would be shocking to have any team other than Canada and the United States in the gold medal game. Yet goaltender Noora Raty and Finland provided just enough resistance in a 3-1 loss to suggest they can make things mildly interesting along the way.
The U.S. players are cast in that awkward role of trying to beat everybody else, yet hoping the other teams make good showings for the sake of hockey’s Olympic future.
"I think it’s fun to have competitive games like that," U.S. forward Jocelyn Lamoreux said.
The Canadians and Americans were so dominant in Vancouver in 2010 that administrators changed the preliminary format in Sochi. They’ve sent the four top-ranked teams — Finland and Switzerland are the others — into the same pool, while promising them spots in the medal round. So they’re all playing only for seeding.
The Finns say they’re tired of being considered the bronze medal favorites. Any greater achievement would be asking a lot, but Raty might be capable of personally staging an upset. She was outstanding Saturday while facing 43 shots, although that was nothing compared with her 58-save performance in a 3-1 win over the U.S. team in the Four Nations Cup in November.
Raty, a former University of Minnesota goalie, had reasonable hopes for the opening game.
"We just expected to give them a good battle," she said. "We’re pretty happy with the score."
Hilary Knight scored on a breakaway just 53 seconds into the game. Kelli Stack batted a rebound out of the air and into the net for the second U.S. goal, and Alex Carpenter added a power-play goal.
Finland’s Susanna Tapani, a University of North Dakota freshman, scored on a power play for Finland late in the game. A teammate retrieved the puck from the net for souvenir purposes, but the Finns hope to have an even more memorable moment before these Games are over.
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