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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.

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vinibomba February 10 2014 at 12:59 AM

If this guy wants to remove hockey ,a game more than a sport, he should also consider taking out ,basket ball,soccer ,base ball, ping pong , cross country shooting, and any sport that is more of a game than what the original Olympics were meant. They should go back to the original sports and set up anolypic game contest.

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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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vinibomba 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.

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runswthscisors40 February 09 2014 at 7:21 PM

Being a school bus driver, I drove Anne Schleper (defenseman) to lots of her high school games.......my brush with the famous, I guess............

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EJB February 10 2014 at 3:43 PM

thats nice

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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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CQQL February 09 2014 at 4:27 PM

I watched them, and they are good athletes, but about on par with a good boys high school hockey team...weak shooting, so-so puck handling...less than stellar skating, etc.

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edosta1697 February 09 2014 at 3:01 PM

Hockey is our game and we are far ahead of anyone in the sport.

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xybrown3 February 09 2014 at 4:32 PM

Our game????????? who is OUR

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David S. February 09 2014 at 3:01 PM

I can't get over that women play hockey......

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mrscdel February 09 2014 at 2:31 PM

why bother having the Olympics??? now they all must wear an olympic" bib" that denies their flags.. their colors...their country....and dumb down the sports so everyone can win a socialist prizes...that means give everyone a prize win or loose? if you cant win by talent stay out of the kitchen!!!

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filmwinder February 09 2014 at 11:20 AM

same stupid reasoning the IOC took out womens softball in the summer games....

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xybrown3 February 09 2014 at 4:34 PM

women soft ball or any soft ball is boring

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vinibomba February 10 2014 at 1:04 AM

If you think about it so is baseball golf ping pong soccer and most any game if you do not like it.

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wrgilbert February 09 2014 at 10:34 PM

it was an American that kept softball out of the London games...not a European.

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rgrlarry February 09 2014 at 10:44 AM

It's 1936, not 1939.

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