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Winners in Women's Hockey opening games




SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- A new format was supposed to make the Olympic women's hockey tournament more competitive after Vancouver, when then-IOC president Jacques Rogge hinted that the sport could be kicked out of the Winter Games.

One day into the Sochi Games and the winners look the same.

The United States and Canada won their openers at the Shayba Arena on Saturday despite changes that were supposed to bring some of the marquee matchups into the round-robin. The Americans beat Finland 3-1 and Canada beat Switzerland 5-0, showing that the North American dominance of the sport is still supreme.

"It's the best result we've ever had against Canada," Swiss goalie Florence Schelling said after making 64 saves in a 5-0 loss to the three-time defending champions. "It shows we have improved."

A spate of blowouts in 2010 led hockey's international governing body to place the four top teams in their own group, with the next four in a group of their own. The teams in Group A will compete for two spots in the semifinals and two in the quarterfinals; two other spots in the quarterfinals will go to the top two teams in Group B.

That means the United States faced Finland, the 2010 bronze medalist, in the Sochi opener instead of China, which it beat 12-1 to start the Vancouver Games. Finnish goalie Noora Raty, a two-time NCAA champion, gave up Hilary Knight's goal 53 seconds into the game but stopped 40 shots to keep it close from there.

"I always know that when you face the U.S. or Canada, it's going to be 40 or 50 shots," she said. "They are the huge favorites and we are the underdog."

Jesse Vetter stopped 14 shots for the Americans. Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter also scored for the Americans, each getting a fortunate bounce on what Finnish coach Mika Pieniniemi called "an `oops' goal."

The U.S. players had said they would need ugly goals to beat Raty, who stopped 58 American shots in November in an upset victory in Lake Placid, N.Y., and coach Katey Stone made no apologies for how the puck went in.

"We talk a lot about how there are no snapshots on the scorecard," Stone said. "If it's an ugly one, it's an ugly one. And sometimes against a fantastic goaltender that's how you have to get it done."

All-time Olympic leading scorer Hayley Wickenheiser added to her record with her 17th career Winter Games goal to lead Canada in the late game. Wickenheiser has participated in every Olympics since women's hockey was made an official sport in 1998, and she has scored in every one.

"She's got `It,'" coach Kevin Dineen said. "I don't know what `It' is, but whatever makes someone extremely successful in their chosen field, she's got. She's just the real deal."

Rebecca Johnston had a goal and two assists and Marie-Philip Poulin had one of each for Canada, which hadn't ever beaten the Swiss by fewer than six goals in any competition. Charline Labonte stopped all 14 shots she faced for the shutout.

The United States plays Switzerland on Monday, and Canada plays Finland. The North Americans will meet in the round-robin on Feb. 12 - one of the benefits of the new format - and they remain on track to play in the gold medal game Feb. 20.

Join the discussion

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Heather February 09 2014 at 10:10 AM

Dear Mr. Rogge and Mr. Bach:

How about eliminating Biathalon from the games too as the domination by one athlete from Norway continues, O E Bjoerndalen wins his 7th GOLD at 40 yrs old.

US Men have won 14 of 18 Gold Medals in Basketball - how about tossing out men's hoop too?

Please bring back women's softball if you're keeping men's basketball!

HLF

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2 replies
whitfw01 Heather February 09 2014 at 12:56 PM

Right on Heather. Next to women's softball is Ice Hockey for me!! Not fair to the gals that love their softball and are very competative in the field. I like to see the old sport of round table knife throughing return to the center ring at the Olympics!! We could volunteer "D-ROD", strap him in and give him a spin!!

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xelasc Heather February 09 2014 at 3:34 PM

Nobody around the world plays softball except the USA and some canadians, by the OIC standards neither softball and women ice hockey should be allowed, anyways, if you want to be a real world class athlete join a sport with a real global competition.

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1 reply
vbjunkie xelasc February 09 2014 at 3:49 PM

And the Japanese. And the Australians.

But after that... most everyone else falls off the table.

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bri6922an February 09 2014 at 2:22 AM

Some of us watch for the love of the sport and competition. Great talent if you know what your looking at. Sounds like some would have been more fun blogging on some mud slinging political posts and get down and dirty

Flag Reply +5 rate up
macsportsvt February 09 2014 at 5:48 PM

As the great Wayne Gretsky often noted - "100% of the shots you DON"T take, DON"T go in". The IOC's efforts to reconstruct reality is right on line with the recent idiocy out of the golf world, where whining promoters are saying: "It's too hard" "It's too elite" "Let's make the cup 15 inches wide" and treat a lost ball as Bill Clinton does - a practice mistake . We are well on our way to eliminating standards - on anything. Why not Olympic hockey as well? Shame on them.

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jimmy.zucco February 08 2014 at 6:48 PM

USA !! USA!! USA!! GO GET'M LADIES!!

Flag Reply +8 rate up
RKMuggsy31 February 09 2014 at 5:43 AM

Canada vs. U.S. in women's hockey on Feb. 12. Should be an excellent game if you like competition. I'm positive it will be more entertaining than the last Super Bowl.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
nascar20155 February 09 2014 at 10:28 PM

I watched the us v finland yesterday and i saw some awesome skills from these women some of the stick handling was amazing go usa!!!!!!!!

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1 reply
vinibomba nascar20155 February 10 2014 at 1:02 AM

I agree . The women are much better passers than any of the men's teams. Plus a lot less violent,which make it more of a sport than a brawl of who can bang the opponent harder into the boards.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
msglinguist February 09 2014 at 8:08 AM

In our "everybody is a winner" society, the changing rules to be nicer nonsense doesn't work. It doesn't work in education either.

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1 reply
xelasc msglinguist February 09 2014 at 3:36 PM

Talk about the southern states, in bama and ole miss you get a collage degree without even knowing how to read.

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timalways February 09 2014 at 8:39 AM

Great goal tending by the Swiss goalie to make up for the Swiss Cheese defense on the team.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
terre46 February 08 2014 at 4:52 PM

You make 64 saves, even with losing, your in the top of my book;.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
chefjohnp February 08 2014 at 7:52 PM

GO U.S.A.!!!!!!!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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