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Olympics Recap: Day Two

Day two of play sees Group A action get underway.

Olympics: Ice Hockey-Women Team Group A - CAN-RUS
 Canada defender Meaghan Mikkelson (12) and Olympic Athlete from Russia forward Valeria Pavlova (15) fight for the puck 
David E. Klutho-USA TODAY Sports

Canada vs OAR, 5-0

The name “Nadezhda” translates to hope, which fit for the OAR team, as Nadezhda Morozova was the main reason they had hope throughout the game.

Alas, Rebecca Johnston and Marie-Philip Poulin had three points each as a clinical Canada opened their gold medal defense with a 5-0 whomping of the Russian side.

Morozova kept the game scoreless through one, despite OAR being outshot 15-5. She did have some help from the goalpost, as Jennifer Wakefield rang iron while on the power play.

However, early in the second, Canada broke through, as Johnston fired home from the slot off a Brianne Jenner feed to open the scoring.

That opened the floodgates. Two minutes later, Johnston had a shot tipped home by Haley Irwin. Canada added a third late in the period, with Meghan Agosta showing great patience to set up a tap-in for Mélodie Daoust.

Canada did not let up, going for the jugular in the third against a gassed Russian side, outshooting them 24-6 in the final frame. Johnston added a 5-on-3 power play goal, and Daoust put the cherry on top about two minutes later with her second of the game. After the fifth goal, Russian coach Alexei Chistyakov elected to give Morozova a breather, replacing her with Nadezhda Alexandrova.

Team OAR showed some flashes, threatening on a couple of occasions (particularly through Valeriya Pavlova) and getting amazing goaltending from Morozova, who ended the game with 33 saves on 38 shots (Alexandrova stopped all ten she saw after coming in). But to compete with Canada and the US, you have to be perfect, possibly better than perfect, and they weren’t. They had some sloppy turnovers, silly penalties, and other young team mistakes, and Canada said “thank you very much” and converted on their chances. And when they did have chances, Canadian goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens rose to the challenge for her first international shutout.

USA vs Finland, 3-1

Despite scoring first and an impressive performance from star goaltender Noora Räty, the Naisleijonat fell to Team USA. The Finns put their physicality on display thanks in part to defenders Rosa Linstedt and Mira Jalosuo; both stand at six feet or taller and are unafraid to play the body.

Venla Hovi scored a beautiful goal as the first period wound down. No hesitation as she accepted the pass from Petra Nieminen, and BAM. Into the back of Rooney’s net to put Finland up 1-0 after the first period.

Hovi buries Finland’s first goal of the 2018 Olympics.

This is a great start for Nieminen, who at 18 is the youngest member of this Finnish team and a deadly offensive weapon in the making. Linda Välimäki earned the secondary assist.

On the other end of the age spectrum is a legend of women’s hockey and Finnish sport as a whole. If by some chance you’re not in awe of Riikka Välilä yet, have an incredible stat: at 44 years old, the veteran center spent 24:44 minutes on the ice with her ice time only increasing with each period.

Even though they were outshot and were unable to take advantage of their power play chances, Finland managed to get some good scoring opportunities including a Michelle Karvinen breakaway that saw her speed on stunning display.

Monique Lamoureux potted her own rebound (one shot alone was not going to beat Räty on this day) to tie the game 8:58 into the second period. Her goal was unassisted and came as a result of USA winning a hard-fought battle in the corner. It was the only even strength goal that got past Räty.

Later, just past the midway point of the second period, USA took its first lead of the game thanks to some crafty passing on the power play. Hilary Knight set up Kendall Coyne on the doorstep and the speedy winger made no mistake, roofing it past Räty to give the Americans a 2-1 lead. Brianna Decker picked up the secondary assist on USA’s go-ahead goal.

Finland was unable to capitalize on two power plays in the first half of the third period. With 13 seconds remaining in regulation Dani Cameranesi potted an empty net goal to give USA a 3-1 victory. The Americans out-shot Finland 42 to 24 but the Finns held Team USA to eight shots in the third period while putting 10 shots of their own on Maddie Rooney.

Jenni Hiirikoski put five shots on net for Finland, but by far the most impressive number tied to her first game of the Olympic tournament was her staggering amount of ice time. The star defender skated 28:51 for the Finns against Team USA. We are not worthy.