U.S. women top Sweden, advance to gold-medal game
SOCHI -- There was no replay of the miracle at Turin in the 2014 Sochi Olympics women's hockey tournament Monday afternoon at Shayba Arena.
The United States started fast and never looked back, scoring three goals in a dominant first period before cruising to a 6-1 victory against Sweden.
The Americans will play Canada, a 3-1 winner against Switzerland in the other semifinal Monday, for the gold medal on Thursday.
Eight years ago, the Americans faced Sweden at this stage and were considered heavy favorites as well. Instead, the Swedes shocked the world with a 4-3 victory to advance to the gold-medal game for the first time.
|Valentina Lizana Wallner #35 of Sweden tries to make a save against Alex Carpenter #25 of the United States in the second period during the Women's Ice Hockey Playoffs Semifinal game on day ten of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 17, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)|
On Monday, the Americans made it clear from the opening faceoff they had little interest in playing a nail-biting game or letting a dangerous Swedish side hang around, especially after the Swedes upset Finland in the quarterfinals.
Alex Carpenter scored 6:10 into the game and Kacey Bellamy and Amanda Kessel followed with first-period goals of their own. Only the brilliance of Swedish goalie Vallentina Wallner kept the score from being more lopsided as the Americans held a 29-1 shot advantage after the first 20 minutes and finished the game with 70-9 advantage in shots.
"It was a formidable team effort," Kessel said. "That's been our focus all along. When we get it right like we did today it is difficult for anyone to play against us. That's what we have worked for."
Kessel's brother, Phil, plays for the United States men's team here at the Sochi Olympics. On Sunday, in this same building, Phil Kessel scored a hat trick as the Americans took a 5-1 decision from Slovenia, delivering the U.S. squad directly into the quarterfinals.
"It was an inspiration to me," she said. "He's my favorite player."
Wallner was under siege from the first minute to the last in the first period and for the 12:31 she played in the second period before being replaced by Kim Martin Hasson. Wallner made 42 saves in 32:31.
"It was tough and they have maybe the best team in the world," Wallner said. "I was prepared for it, but it was tough. I don't feel pressure, because they had all the pressure to win this game. We just went out there and did our best."
On this night, it was not good enough. The Americans were determined to get to the gold-medal game and the memory of failing at this hurdle two Olympics ago provided the impetus to get the job done as thoroughly as possible to assure what will be a rematch with Canada.
The Canadians won the preliminary game here against the Americans last week, registering a come-from-behind 3-2 victory. Canada has also won the past three Olympics, twice beating the Americans in the gold-medal game during that run.
"We have been very thorough in our preparations," said forward Meghan Duggan, the American captain. "The training has been very intense. Now is not the time to lift our foot off the pedal. We will keep going flat out.
"We've been through a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It sounds a cliche, but we have. All we wanted to do was put ourselves in position and make it to this point."
The Americans did not lift their foot off the pedal Monday. In the second period, Monique Lamoureux and defenseman Megan Bozek scored to make it 5-0. The Bozek goal chased Wallner, but also seemed to wake up the Swedes a bit.
Wallner stopped Lamoureux on a penalty shot with a nice save and then scored a goal to cut it to 5-1 when Anna Borqvist got her stick on a puck from the point and tipped it past American goalie Jessie Vetter to ruin the shutout bid.
"It's always tough to lose a semifinal but they were a much better team today," Hasson said. "They made it hard for us right from the start. It's hard to stop a team like that when they get off to a good start. But we did improve as the game went on and we refused to give in."