After the second semifinal, the gold medal matchup is set: it’ll be Canada vs. USA once again in Beijing, after the Americans earned a 4-1 win over Finland.
United States: Cayla Barnes, Hilary Knight, Hayley Scamurra, Abby Roque
Finland: Susanna Tapani
The Finns will probably be the first to tell you this: they did not come close to playing their best in the preliminary round, when they fell behind 3-0 to Team USA and ended up losing the opening game 5-2. Finland tends to bring their best stuff as the stakes get higher, though, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen from them the last couple of games.
The two teams played to a scoreless tie in the first period, with the U.S. outshooting the Finns 12-6. Finland did a decent job of keeping the American offense from pressing too much, and had some grade-A chances of their own. It looked like the Finns were going to take the lead going into the intermission on this excellent chance from Michelle Karvinen, but Alex Cavallini came up with a couple of huge stops:
Just 2:12 into the second period, Finland’s Tanja Niskanen sat for tripping, and Cayla Barnes gave the U.S. the lead on a well-drawn-up power-play chance. That shifted the pressure a bit to the Finnish offense, who found themselves playing down for the rest of the game. A goal from Hilary Knight capped off a strong second period for Team USA, giving them a 2-0 lead going into the third.
Despite the deficit, Finland continued to push in the third period, and actually outshot Team USA, 13-7, in the final frame. But Alex Cavallini kept the gates shut until the last minute of the game. For the Finns, it was a nice bounce back after a less-than-ideal start to the beginning of the tournament, particularly after head coach Pasi Mustonen left Beijing due to a family emergency.
Hayley Scamurra added a third goal with under five minutes left to break the game open for the Americans. Susanna Tapani scored with under a minute left to finally get Finland on the board, but it was too little, too late.
Cavallini’s performance in net was a definite bright spot for Team USA. The U.S. rotated their goaltending trio for much of the medal round, but Cavallini has started the past two games and appears to be the starter moving forward. Consistency and confidence in net will be key as they look ahead to the gold medal rematch with Canada.
Something to watch for in the upcoming matchup with the Canadians will be Team USA’s start to the game. They got off to a seemingly dominant start against Canada in the round robin but didn’t convert on any early chances, and instead ended up down 1-0 after Canada capitalized on a power play. Against both the Czechs and the Finns, the U.S. wasn’t able to score in the first period, either. Getting off to a hot start and actually capitalizing early will almost definitely be a focus.