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One Timers

Team USA tops Finland 2-1 in World Championships preliminary round

February 8, 2014: Sochi, RUS - U.S. forward Hilary Knight (21) skates ahead of Finland's Emma Nuutinen (96) during the second period in a women's hockey game at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Saturday, February 8, 2014. ***** NORTH AMERICAN SALES ONLY ---- NO AGENTS ---- NORTH AMERICAN SALES ONLY *****
Brian Cassella/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com/Icon Sportswire

Team USA left its first preliminary game against Team Canada triumphant with a score of 2-1. Twenty-four hours later, it saw the same score against Team Finland, finishing up with a 2-1 win in what turned out to be a very different game, despite many similarities.

USA once again started out very slow for the second day in a row. Tuesday evening, players were skating on clearly tired legs after a tough back-and-forth game against Canada the day before, but also continued to see some chemistry issues, missing passes, failing to communicate with teammates and giving Finland too much room in front of the U.S. net.

Finland, like Canada did on Monday, saw the first goal of the game, early in the first period. Coming down the stretch on the rush, Rikka Valila made a quick cross-crease pass to Michelle Karvinen, who held it on the blade of her stick just long enough to safely pop it into the net backhand past U.S. netminder Jessie Vetter.

After a strong start, things went downhill for Finland when the U.S. began to pull itself together. While issues with pass connection still persisted, the team began to make smarter plays in the neutral and offensive zones and dominate the puck.

Kendall Coyne showed she has the potential to be a difference-maker for Team USA, making several smart plays, at least one of which ended with a rush on net and a very near goal that forced a spectacular save by Finnish netminder Meeri Raisanen.

Following Coyne’s rush on net, Team USA seemed to recall that they had another gear to kick it up to, and subsequently did so.

The Coyne-Decker-Knight line continued to be one of the more successful, with Hilary Knight potting a goal in the first by redirecting a Lee Stecklein slapshot from the point, to tie the game up at 1-1.

While USA never seemed out of the game at any point, it was a reminder that they were capable of harder, stronger play than they were exhibiting through most of the first.

The second period saw the U.S. outshoot Finland 20-1, coming out on the power play and dominating play from the get-go.

The change was dramatic; the U.S. began to take charge of the trajectory of the game instead of sitting back on its heels. The change was so abrupt, in fact, it seemed Team USA had been toying with Team Finland, or perhaps simply had been uninspired to attack after such a strenuous game against Canada the day before.

With renewed vigor in their step, the team saw Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson notch one more point for Team USA.

In a play that showcased strong communication from her entire line, Lamoureux-Davidson scored off a tick-tac-toe play that ended with an ignored Lamoureux-Davidson finding half of the net wide-open.

Despite losing goaltender Noora Raty, one of the most dominant goaltenders in women’s hockey, to a knee injury, goaltending was Finland’s biggest strength. Netminder Meeri Raisenen held her own, and faced down more than 35 shots over the course of the game, making a number of terrific pad saves against Team USA.

Raisenen kept Finland in the game through her hard work, exploiting the Team USA’s communication shortcomings and forcing the U.S. to find creative ways to put the puck past her. Her outstanding work over 60 minutes earned her the player of the game award for Team Finland.

Thursday Team USA will take on Team Russia at 6:30 pm EST on TSN in Canada. The game will be aired on a delay on the NHL Network in the U.S. the following day.

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