If there was any question as to how important the opening game in the women's hockey tournament was for both the USA and Finland, that was quickly answered with both teams deciding not to attend the opening ceremonies to focus on the early start time of their game.
Both teams came in determined and ranked inside the top three in the world, but one was clearly the more superior group as Team USA came away with a 3-1 win.
For the Americans, the No. 1 team in the world, it took just 53 seconds to shake the confidence of the Finnish women.
Hilary Knight came away with a steal in the neutral zone and charged in on a breakaway and finished top shelf to put Team USA up 1-0.
But that would be all the scoring in the first period as both goalies clamped down. Jessie Vetter of the U.S. would not allow a goal during the first period and made two sensational saves, as the USA Hockey Score Twitter account points out:
First period ends, USA women lead Finland 1-0 on early goal from Hilary Knight, Vetter was strong in goal to hold the lead #TeamUSA— USA Hockey (@USAHockeyScores) February 8, 2014
While Noora Raty of Finland gave up the one goal at the open with no defender in sight on Knight, a graphic provided by NHL on NBC Sports shows how one-sided the shots on goal were between the two teams:
After a mostly quiet first period outside of the first minute, the scoring was hot and heavy for Team USA in the second.
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Kelli Stack, a former Boston College forward, batted the puck down just outside of the crease to give the Americans a comfortable lead. The goal was under review, but it was determined that Stack did not have a high-sticking penalty, and the score stood at 2-0.
Shortly after the second goal by Stack, the U.S. were awarded a power play and cashed in on the chance against four defensemen.
Alex Carpenter, daughter of former hockey great Bobby Carpenter, found the back of the net on a miraculous goal in the second period to all but secure the win for the Americans with a 3-0 lead. Chris Peters of CBS Sports described the ridiculous backhand goal:
Awesome goal for Alex Carpenter to make it 3-0. Impossible angle for a backhand shot, Carpenter makes it possible.— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) February 8, 2014
The Finnish would come away with one goal to close out the third period, but they were no match for the U.S. attack throughout the contest.
Not all was lost for the No. 3 team in the world, as Raty still put together a great performance despite giving up three goals. Jason Brough of Pro Hockey Talk notes the final shots defended for each goalie, with Raty seeing nearly triple the amount:
US wins 3-1 over Finland. Game wasn't as close as the score. 43-15 were the shots. Noora Raty kept the Finns in it.— Jason Brough (@JasonPHT) February 8, 2014
As for the Americans, Vetter's consistency in goal resulted in 14 saves on 15 chances.
Moving forward, Team USA will face Switzerland on Monday at 5 a.m. ET. The Americans will follow that up with a battle against Canada, the No. 2 team in the world, on Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. ET in a rematch of the 2010 Winter Olympics final.
While the Swiss are a great threat as the No. 5 team in the world, the Canadians and Americans have bad blood.
Canada, the former No. 1 team, were recently dethroned by Team USA after winning two games in December, the last by way of a shootout thanks to another Knight goal to close it out.
Canada are still the three-time defending gold medalist in the Olympics and took down the Americans on the biggest stage the last time they faced. So for Team USA to truly stand a shot, they'll have to prove they can do so against Canada again.