Canada 2, USA 1
It may just be the preliminaries, but USA and Canada lived up to the hype as they always do.
Genevieve Lacasse, a surprise starter for Team Canada, was spectacular in her 2018 Olympic debut, making 44 saves in a dramatic 2-1 Canada victory.
Though the US outshout Canada 45-23, their struggles to put the puck in the net continued. Whether it was pucks hitting the post, Lacasse standing on her head, or Hilary Knight whiffing on a late attempt to tie the game, the Americans were plagued by bad puck luck.
Though the Canadians struck first in the second period on a power play goal from Meghan Agosta, the second goal from Sarah Nurse was a bit more controversial. Though the referees on the ice called the play a good goal and there was no challenge from the USA bench, there was a lot of talk on the broadcast and on Twitter that the play might have been offside by a hair. But the goal stood and the teams played on.
SARAH NURSE! And Canada leads 2-0 pic.twitter.com/PqTNPaH6cx— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) February 15, 2018
The USA had some life in the beginning of the third period, when Kendall Coyne put on a burst of savage speed and danced through four Canadian players to score Team USA’s only goal of the game.
But while Coyne’s goal gave the Americans a burst of life, they weren’t able to ride that momentum.
The US poured it on in the dying moments of the game, pulling starter Maddie Rooney with 1:56 left and pinning Canada in their zone for the end of the game. They had a golden opportunity to tie it up, with Hilary Knight standing wide open on the back door. But she was a fraction too late and missed the pass that came her way, something uncharacteristic of the superstar.
Ultimately, this is just the pool play and didn’t have many ramifications. With the win, Canada clinched the top spot in Division A, but both teams had already earned a bye to the semifinals and won’t play again until Monday.
Finland 5, OAR 1
It looked by all accounts to be a fairly evenly matched game as Finland and the Olympics Athletes from Russia faced off in the last game of the preliminary round. While the teams seemed evenly matched possession-wise, with both teams getting chances, it was Finland that capitalized first, with Michelle Karvinen scoring on the power play just 20 seconds in.
The penalty kill woes would continue for OAR into the second period after a penalty in the waning seconds of the first saw Finland taking the man advantage into the second with them. Karvinen barely gave the OAR time to breathe, scoring just 20 seconds into the power play yet again. Another goal late in the second by Riikka Vanilla would have the OAR looking at a mountain to climb in the third.
The third period would finally provide the break that the OAR have been looking for, after being shut out all tournament??? (HOW) with Anna Shokhina pulling a fantastic move on Noora Räty. Räty was wildly out of position and Shokhina tapped the puck into the empty net.
Despite their signs of life, OAR’s penalty strife would continue. Diana Kanayeva sent Finland to their fourth power play of the night.
Jenni Hiirikoski made the most of it, scoring with an absolute rocket from the blue line, effectively crushing whatever momentum the OAR had been building.
The final straw came after a miscommunication in OAR’s defensive zone caused a nasty turn over to Petra Nieminen, who didn’t think twice as she slid the puck past Nadezhda Morozova to all but secure Finland’s win with a four-goal lead and five minutes left in the game.
For the OAR, it was a classic case of a young team versus a veteran team. The score doesn’t really reflect how competitive the game was for most of it - the Russians were able to skate with the Finns, and probably could have scored more if it weren’t for Noora Räty’s greatness, especially after Shokhina’s goal gave the team more confidence and scoring chances. But they made two fatal kinds young team mistakes: bad penalties and defensive zone turnovers that gave Finland easy scoring chances.