USA women strike quickly, beat Finland 3-1

USA women strike quickly, beat Finland 3-1

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Finland's Tea Villila (L) vies with US Julie Chu during their Women's Ice Hockey Group A match at the Shayba Arena during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 8, 2014. US won 3-1. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)

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by KEVIN ALLEN / USA Today Sports

WCNC.com

Posted on February 8, 2014 at 1:44 PM

Updated Saturday, Feb 8 at 1:54 PM

SOCHI, Russia – The Americans embraced the Chaos Theory as their strategy for beating often-spectacular Finnish goalie Noora Raty.

Screens. Re-directions. Bank shots. Luck. That's what you hope against former University of Minnesota standout Raty.

Video here: USA takes Finland, 3-1

"I told my teammates she is going to stop the first shot for sure, unless you are Hilary Knight and then it's going to go in," U.S. forward Kelli Stack said. "But the rebounds are going to go in and the deflections are going to go in."

Knight scored on the USA's first shot 53 seconds into the game and the Americans scored other unique goals to post a 3-1 win against Finland in the opening game of the women's tournament.

"You really have to keep pounding her because (Raty) is going to stay in the whole game," said U.S. winger Amanda Kessel, sister of Toronto Maple Leafs player Phil Kessel.

The Americans outshot the Finns 43-15, but Raty kept the game competitive.

Last November, Raty had posted 58 saves to beat the Americans 3-1 at the Four Nations Tournament. The Americans were concerned enough about their opening game, with a noon starting time, that they opted not to march in the opening ceremony. They wanted to be rested and fresh to face Raty

"Watching it on TV and seeing how late it went, it was a great decision by our team," Kessel said.

The Americans wanted a strong start and got it when Kessel's forecheck created a turnover that Knight turned into a breakaway goal. She snapped a wrist shot past Raty before the crowd of 4,135 was comfortable in their seats at Shayba Arena.

"We wanted some early shots," Knight said. "Noora is a world-class goalie, so it was a surprise to get an early goal by her."

But Raty refused to allow the Americans to become comfortable, making big save after big save until Stack beat her with the kind of unusual goal that you often need against her.

"I kind of caught the puck in my jersey and then batted it out of the air," Stack said. "I've done that before against her in college. When Boston College played Minnesota in the NCAA regionals and we scored four goals against her in the first period, one of our defensemen shot the puck and I caught it and spun around and hit it in the net."

The Stack goal made it a 2-0 game at 7:42 of the second period, and Alex Carpenter scored on a bank shot with 4:01 left in the period to make it 3-0. Carpenter is the daughter of former NHL player Bobby Carpenter.

"We are extremely fast and extremely powerful," Knight said. "We want to set the pace. We want to be the team that controls the game, and that's what we did."

Raty is extremely familiar with the American players, having competed against many of them in college or other international tournaments.

"They are really strong," she said. "They have a lot of individual skill. Whoever gets the puck is always a scoring threat."

The Finns didn't score until Susanna Tapani cashed in on a power play opportunity with 4:38 left in the game. "We started a bit slow, but we got better as the game went on," Raty said.

The Americans' next game is Monday (5 a.m. ET) against an improved Switzerland team.

"If we don't get in the gold medal game," Raty said, "I hope the U.S. can win the tournament."

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