February 17, 2014

American women set for clash with Canada in final

By Arielle Aronson

Brianna Decker (14) celebrates her goal with Kacey Bellamy (22), Kendall Coyne (26) and Gigi Marvin (19) in the third period of Monday's Olympic semifinal against Sweden. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Final: United States 6, Sweden 1

Recap: In their first game since a difficult 3-2 loss to Canada last Wednesday, the United States returned to the ice as a more determined team and it showed as they made a mockery of the semifinal against Sweden with a blow-out win. Boston College product Alex Carpenter (North Reading, Mass.) opened the scoring for Team USA at 6:10 in the first period when, with the United States on a power play, she worked her way to a wide-open spot in the slot and beat Swedish goaltender Valentina Wallner from point-blank range. The tally marked the first time in this Olympics that the Swedes allowed a power-play goal after entering the game a perfect 17-for-17 on the penalty kill.

Team USA added two more goals in the first period and controlled puck possession to the tune of a 29-1 edge in shots on goal. The lone Swedish shot came with just 1:06 remaining in the frame.

The second period looked much like the first with Team USA dominating in shots, 22-5, and receiving goals from Monique Lamoureux and Megan Bozek to increase their lead to 5-0. Sweden switched goaltenders following the fifth American goal, replacing Wallner with Kim Martin Hasson. Wallner’s final line stood at 42 saves on 47 shots through 32:31 of play.

Sweden showed some signs of life late in the third period and finally found the back of the net when Anna Borgqvist beat American goaltender Jessie Vetter at 13:04 in the frame. The tally came right after a great scoring chance that saw American goaltender Jessie Vetter make a goal-line cover on a puck that trickled through her five-hole.

But that one score was the only positive Sweden could muster against a dynamic American squad. The Swedes technically found the back of the net once more, as Swedish defenseman Emilia Andersson scored on her own netminder off a Brianna Decker rebound to give the United States a 6-1 lead with 3:02 remaining in the game.

Records: United States: 3-1, Sweden: 3-2

Key Play of the Game: The Americans controlled play throughout, but it was the second goal of the game that seemed to establish that a rout might be in order. Just 1:06 after Carpenter’s power-play goal in the first period, Kacey Bellamy (Westfield, Mass.) took a pass from Megan Bozek at the blue line and fired a shot from the point that wove its way through what seemed like the entire Swedish team packed in the slot to beat Wallner and help the USA to a 2-0 lead.

Aronson’s Acclamations: It was glaringly obvious throughout the game that the United States plays at a much higher level than Sweden. The game often seemed like watching a NHL team play a college team with the way Team USA dominated in speed, positioning, strength and skill. The Americans out-shot Sweden, 70-9, and there wasn’t much of a need to zamboni the American end of the ice after Sweden’s one-shot first period. Although the scoresheet claimed much of the game was played 5-on-5, it seemed like Team USA was on the power-play throughout the afternoon with the way it cycled in the offensive zone and kept Sweden scrambling.

Five American women enjoyed multi-point games. Bozek and Decker led the way with three points each while Bellamy, Amanda Kessel and Kendall Coyne each posted two points.

Aronson’s Critiques: It seems nit-picky to point out any errors by the Americans in Monday’s game, but since no team is perfect, the Americans can point to their third period play as an area to work on. They did an admirable job of keeping their foot on the gas pedal throughout the first two periods but started to get a little too cute offensively and slightly lazy on defense in the third period. Still, that let-down never caused a significant issue for the Americans and probably is due more to the blow-out nature of the game than any actual focus issues on the team.

Notes: Although the Swedes pulled Wallner in the second period, she kept Sweden in the game as much as a goaltender can when facing 47 shots in a 32:31 span. She now has a .921 save percentage in five games this Olympics … Coyne hit her head pretty hard in the second period when she was thrown to the ice in the neutral zone. She initially struggled to get up, but came right back in the game and seems to be okay.

Final Thoughts: This game was never competitive, but the Americans can’t get too ahead of themselves. They toppled Sweden, 9-1, in the semifinal of the 2010 Olympics before losing to Canada in the gold-medal game.

Next: Team USA advances to the gold-medal game on Thursday against Canada, which beat Northeastern alum Florence Schelling and Switzerland 3-1 in the other semifinal. The Americans are seeking their first gold medal since 1998.  

Twitter: @aharonson28

Email: feedback@hockeyjournal.com