The United States and Canada will compete for the women’s ice hockey gold at the Beijing Olympics after their 4-1 semi-final victory over Finland on Monday.
Team USA will be seeking its second straight Olympic gold medal against Canada (11:10 p.m. ET Wednesday). Canada beat Switzerland 10-3 in the semi-finals and outperformed their opponents 54-8 – including a 4-2 win over the United States in the preliminary round.
The United States and Canada have faced each other in six of the seven Olympic women’s hockey finals. Canada has won the gold medal four times.
Finland, who will face Switzerland for the bronze medal, put up a great fight in the semi-finals. Goalie Anni Keisala saved 38 saves, with a confidence that kept her team in the match. On the American side, Alex Cavallini (25) didn’t have the same amount of saves but did make some good ones, including Finnish striker Michael Karvenen’s stunning 2-on-1 late in the first half to save the goal. Smooth game.
In the second half, forward Hilary Knight gave the US team some time and made history in the process. The Americans finally came to the plate in strong play 3:29 in the second half, as forward Hannah Brandt found defender Kayla Barnes wide open on the right side of Finland’s net to score a goal. Knight had the secondary assist to tie Natalie Drewitz to second place with the most professional Olympic points score for an American woman with 25 points.
Knight broke that tie with 1:07 remaining in the second half with the USA team switching over the top streak. Kendall Quinn Schofield outflanked Finland’s defense to net a tack into the corner, establishing a sequence that ended with Knight scoring in front of the Finnish curl to lead 2-0.
The United States had a 33-7 shot advantage and a 4-0 lead after two stints in the first-team playoff meeting. After two stints in the semi-finals, they had a 33-12 shot advantage but only led 2-0.
Striker Hayley Scamora scored what would be a crucial security goal with 3:58 left in the game. She created an opportunity to score with a tough forehand check behind the Finnish net and then fired Barnes to give the US a 3-0 lead. That third-half goal was looming when Finnish Susanna Tabani scored 26 seconds to go with an empty net.
Abby Rocky then scored in the empty net for the final score 4-1, securing another showdown with the Canadians.
Canadian athlete Sarah Nourse said she is looking forward to renewing the competition once again.
“Obviously, playing with the United States, it’s always an exciting match, always an exciting competition,” said a nurse, who provided four assists against Switzerland. “Our biggest focus is to play another match in the Olympics. We came here to play seven matches. We wanted the last match to be the gold medal match.”
Canada’s 54 goals is an Olympic record for a single tournament. The previous mark of 48 goals came for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in five matches.
“I think we’re taking the game to new heights right now,” said a nurse. “We are playing a style of hockey that we have never seen before in our tournament. So, in five to ten years, other countries will be playing our style of play, and we will continue to push things forward. Keep improving our sport.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
“Travel aficionado. Infuriatingly humble reader. Incurable internet specialist.”