2024 Worlds Recap: Edwards Leads Charge in USA Semifinal Win Over Finland

Laila Edwards' first senior national team hat trick propelled Team USA back to the gold medal game.

2024 Worlds Recap: Edwards Leads Charge in USA Semifinal Win Over Finland
Laila Edwards goes to celebrate her third goal with her teammates. Photo courtesy of the IIHF.

The United States kept their perfect streak of gold-medal game appearances alive yesterday, cruising to a 5-0 semifinal win over Finland on the back of a Laila Edwards hat trick.

Neither team landed many shots for the first few minutes, but then the U.S. started picking up the pace and pouring more on Finnish goaltender Sanni Ahola, who stood tall.

Finally, Hannah Bilka kicked off the scoring at 12:01, whacking one home during net front chaos. Abbey Murphy and Tessa Janecke assisted on the goal.

The United States kept pouring shots on over the rest of the period, but they couldn’t get another one past Ahola before heading back to the locker room. Although they got outshot 22-4, Finland looked better than the shot count said and did a decent job of keeping the U.S. to the perimeter. However, it felt like only a matter of time before the U.S. broke through again if they kept the zone and shot pressure up.

The second period was much more eventful than the first. It started with Noora Tulus sailing the puck over the glass at 1:46 and handing the U.S. an early power play. They managed a couple of shots on goal, but nothing felt particularly dangerous thanks to a strong Finland kill.

Things got a little scary for Team USA at 12:25. Kendall Coyne Schofield was hunting the puck with Sirri Yrjola, and Yrjola took her down. She crashed hard into the endboards and was down for a bit. Trainers came and attended to her on the ice, but she managed to get up and skate back to the bench on her own. However, while the play was still under review for a possible major penalty, Coyne Schofield and a trainer left the bench and headed down the tunnel. 

Ultimately, the refs decided there was no major on the play but gave Yrjola two for holding. It was the right call, as Yrjola made contact and helped Coyne Schofield down, but it didn’t come close to the level of a major. It was just an unfortunate result caused by the high speeds as well as a big size difference between the two players.

Just 49 seconds into the power play, Laila Edwards finished off a great Tessa Janecke pass, sending a beautiful shot bar-down to extend the U.S. lead. To make things even better for the Americans, Coyne Schofield returned to the U.S. bench during the next TV timeout a few minutes later.

The U.S. was sent to their first penalty kill of the day with just under four minutes remaining, as Murphy was called for hooking. Then, they got a power play of their own just 18 seconds after it expired when Susanna Tapani dumped Murphy during a puck hunt. However, they couldn’t get anything going on it and returned to the locker room leading 2-0 while outshooting Finland a whopping 42-8. 

The sustained pressure finally seemed to get to Finland in the third period. Just 2:34 in, Edwards buried a rebound following an outstanding Taylor Heise play to give the Americans a three-goal lead. Kirsten Simms also assisted on the goal.

Not quite four minutes later, Edwards rocketed a one-timer past Ahola to complete her first career senior national team hat trick. Heise and Simms again got the assists on the goal, and hats rained onto the ice as she celebrated an incredible moment with her teammates.

The U.S. then largely kept the pressure up, although Finland started getting a few better chances. However, Aerin Frankel was up to the task and turned them all away.

Finally, Savannah Harmon got her first of the tournament to cap off the scoring with the satisfying ping of another bar-down goal just over 16 minutes in. Britta Curl and Joy Dunne notched the assists. For some reason, the clip does not appear to exist on X/Twitter, but check it starting around the three-minute mark of this highlight package.

In the final minutes, Janecke looked like she had a great opportunity to extend the lead to 6-0. However, Ahola came flying out of her net to break it up.

The U.S. finished the game on the penalty kill after Megan Keller got called for interference with 1:50 remaining. Luckily, they killed it with relative ease to preserve Frankel’s fourth shutout, which moved her into sole possession of first place all-time for most shutouts in a single tournament.

Overall, Finland played better than the score suggests considering they lost 5-0 while getting outshot 55-15. Their defense was strong again and Ahola had perhaps her best game of the tournament. However, the U.S. offense is simply too much for most to contain for long, and their defense and goaltending were also excellent when needed.

The United States is back in action at 5 p.m. EDT today, taking on Canada in the gold medal game (a shocking development, I know). Before they take the ice, Finland returns to a medal game for the first time since 2021 to take on a Czechia team looking for a three-peat as bronze medalists at 1 p.m. EDT.