(photo: www.usahockey.com)

The United States opened the Women’s Ice Hockey contest today in Sochi, in their preliminary match-up against Finland at Shayba Arena. With a 3-1 victory, Team USA improves to 6-0-0-0 all-time against Finland in the Olympic Winter Games.

Things looked easy for Team USA from the opening minute of the game. Hilary Knight scored on Finnish superstar Noora Raty just 53 seconds in, on the first shot of the contest. Pressure from Amanda Kessel resulted in a turnover by the Finns, and Knight was poised for the partial breakaway leading to her goal. The United States had two power plays in the first period, but would not score again until the second.

Kelli Stack netted a goal for the Americans 7:42 into the second period. The goal was quickly reviewed to make sure her stick was not too high as Stack batted the puck out of the air and into the net. Her patience waiting for the puck to fall below the crossbar paid off and the goal was upheld. Team USA would let one more Finnish penalty go unpunished before Alex Carpenter scored on USA’s fourth power play of the game to extend the lead to 3-0. The puck had eyes as her tally came from a tough angle.

It looked for a while as though the first shot of the game would result in the game-winning goal, but that was not to be the case as Finland scored on their own power play 15:22 into the final period, ending Jessie Vetter’s shutout. Finland, down by 2 goals, would take a timeout after finally getting on the board. They tried to pull Raty for the extra attacker, but pressure from the United States kept her from skating out until only 52 seconds remained. The score would remain 3-1, the shots 43-15 in favor of the United States.

Noora Raty was outstanding in the loss, bailing out her teammates when they failed to pressure the Americans for much of the game. After the game, Raty herself said that if her country does not win gold, she hopes Team USA will. She and Americans Amanda Kessel, and Megan Bozek were all teammates at the University of Minnesota.

The U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team is off tomorrow (Feb. 9) before resuming action in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games Sunday (Feb. 10) against Switzerland. Puck-drop is scheduled for 5 a.m. ET. 

Born in the “non-traditional” hockey market of South Florida, Elizabeth (Beth) quickly grew to love the sport at a very young age after her Buffalo-bred family introduced her to the Sabres. High school friends who didn’t care about hockey couldn't understand her withdrawals during the 2004-05 lockout, but college would bring a hockey loving boyfriend (and best friend) to whom she could finally relate. A South Florida native himself, and an avid Florida Panthers fan, he got her into the home team. Together they work for their college hockey club (the FAU Owls), broadcasting games. Beth is a huge USA Hockey fan and hopes to see them win Olympic gold in her lifetime. Between her 2 favorite NHL teams, her college squad, and USA Hockey, it's hard to tell which team she loves most, but she is passionate about them all.

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