The U.S. women's hockey team opened tournament play with a win on Sunday, defeating Finland 3-1, in a tense and physical game at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The U.S. team came out skating at a furious pace, pushing Finland well back into their own end and firing off shots on goal. But Finland eventually built their own momentum, organizing themselves and putting together dangerous possessions. Their defense, led by captain Jenni Hiirikoski, settled in.
In the first period, the Americans had chances but couldn't get the puck past goalie Noora Raty. It seemed the period would end in a scoreless tie — but then Venla Hovi fired the Finns' ninth shot on goal, angling the puck inside the far post after a feed from behind the goal line.
After the Finns took a a 1-0 lead, a row of parents and families of the U.S. team let out a groan. They were standing near me in a row behind their seats at the Kwandong Hockey Center — too nervous to sit, a couple of them said.
It could have been worse: At the start of the second period, a Finnish player flipped a spinning puck in a lateral shot at the goal. The puck bounced around on top of the net before being put back in play.
The U.S. broke through midway through the second, on a power play. After team captain Meghan Duggan threaded her way through two defenders in front of the American bench, Monique Lamoureux-Morando got off a shot — and when the puck ricocheted to her, she put it away to tie the score.
Less than a minute later, Kendall Coyne hit a one-timer home for a 2-1 lead, as she lifted the puck into the top of the net on assists from Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker.
The U.S. nearly scored again midway through the third period, when Coyne's pass deflected off a Finnish player's skate and whacked Raty's facemask.
The Finns then followed with their own chance, with the puck bouncing off of goalie Maddy Rooney and drifting dangerously out into open ice. Throughout the game, there were hard checks and even a shove in the face, as Finnish defender Rosa Lindstedt sent Lamoureux-Morando sprawling backwards to the ice.
Forward Dani Cameranesi removed all doubt with less than a minute left, rushing down to the other end on a breakaway — and with Finland having pulled their goalie, she put it away for a 3-1 lead.
The U.S. outshot Finland, taking 42 shots on goal to 24.
The Americans will next face the Olympic Athletes From Russia, in a game slated for Tuesday, Feb. 13.