The U.S. women got the start they wanted with a 3-1 win over Finland in the opening game of the women’s hockey tournament at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Goals from Hilary Knight, Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter, the trio that makes up Team USA’s top line were enough to get the U.S. off on the right foot.
Team USA’s speed and skill was evident throughout the game, though Finnish netminder Noora Raty certainly made them work for all their goals. The U.S. next will meet Switzerland at 5 a.m. ET on Monday. It’s a game they should be able to easily win, but being battle tested with a tough tilt against Finland is helpful.
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) February 8, 2014
Coming up after the jump, five quick thoughts from the game.
First off, I’ll be contributing to USA Hockey’s post-game shows on their YouTube channel, joining hosts Cameron Eickmeyer of USAHockey.com and Harry Thompson, editor of USA Hockey Magazine. You can see the first episode here:
1. Team USA’s top line of Hilary Knight, Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter looked better than advertised in the opener against Finland. They had all three goals for Team USA, including on the first shot of the game as Knight picked off a pass and took it the other way for an easy goal 53 seconds in.
This line has a good mix of speed and tenacity, too. I really believe Knight has a chance to be a dominant player in this tournament with her power-forward style game. Stack is dynamic and Carpenter’s instincts offensively are certainly notable. They are going to be a handful for most teams.
2. Noora Raty was pretty special in this game. She kept it close with 40 saves and I don’t know if there was much she could do on any of the goals. The former University of Minnesota standout might have a chance to put a scare into some teams out there if she can steal a game. Finland doesn’t have the depth of skill to match the top teams, but they have enough to get by if Raty stands on her head. Though the U.S. dominated the shot count, it was a very competitive and entertaining game.
3. Team USA’s speed really is something. Alex Carpenter’s backcheck in the first period where she caught a Finnish forward who had about six strides on her was just amazing. The way this team transitions makes them so fun. They can turn on anyone on a dime and it’s a scoring chance. Kendall Coyne’s top gear is breathtaking. The U.S. has a chance to succeed because their speed allows them to own the possession game. They win races, they out-battle teams and they make the defense work really hard to get pucks out. Finland couldn’t keep up at times and it wore them down as the game went on.
4. Team USA’s second line of Coyne, Amanda Kessel and Brianna Decker were all over the ice and just didn’t get on the board. They had numerous chances and a couple of posts, so you’d expect they’ll be getting on the scoresheet a lot more soon. They give the U.S. two true scoring lines that will be able to put teams on their heels every shift. The energy this trio plays with is something else. You also have to love Team USA’s third line with Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux with Meghan Duggan. They are physical and grind it out with the best of them. They’re Team USA’s grind line, but they have a lot of offensive pop, too.
5. Coming into the tournament there was some concern about Team USA’s defense and their relative lack of experience. Only Kacey Bellamy and Gigi Marvin have prior Olympic experience. The youth wasn’t a factor though as talent took over. Megan Bozek is going to be an absolute thrill to watch in this tournament. She made a lot of smart plays and also showed that she has a rocket shot. Her skating ability was also on full display. Marvin also had a spectacular game with her smart, steady defensive play. This group is going to be a lot of fun.
I hope to have these quick thoughts after all women’s games (usually they’ll be a little earlier after a game than this was). Team USA meets Switzerland Monday at 5 a.m. ET and will see another standout goalie in Florence Schelling, who made 64 stops in a 5-0 loss to Canada today.
Full recap will come after the game Monday. Full men’s hockey coverage begins tomorrow.