Women's Hockey Olympics 2014: USA Wins, but Finland Goalie Steals Show

Alan BlackAnalyst IIIFebruary 8, 2014

Kelli Stack of the Untied States (16) scores a goal on an assist from Hilary Knight (21) of the Untied States as Goalkeeper Noora Raty of Finland tries to block the shot during the second period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women's ice hockey match at Shayba Arena, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

In the first women's ice hockey game of the Olympics, USA beat Finland 3-1.

The game started off well for the U.S., as Hilary Knight picked up a Finland turnover and put the puck into the top left corner of the net less than a minute in.

The next score didn't come until nearly eight minutes into the second period. On a set play, Megan Bozek purposely fired a shot off the boards behind the goal, which Hilary Knight then picked up and lofted across the goal to Kelli Stack, who batted it out of the air and into the net. The officials reviewed the play to see if Stack was guilty of high sticking, but the footage clearly showed that her stick remained below the crossbar, and the goal counted.

Less than ten minutes later, the Americans once again used a bank pass off the back boards to score, with Anne Schleper firing from the high slot and Alex Carpenter picking it up nearly flush with the goal and backhanding at a difficult angle from the right side.

The Finns would get on the board with less than five minutes left in the game, when American Kacey Bellamy attempted an ill-advised clearance around the back boards. The puck was intercepted by Finland's Michelle Karvinen, who caught the Americans all pulled over to the right side and immediately sent a spot-on pass back over to the left side of the goal to a wide-open Susanna Tapani. Tapani slotted the puck into the back of the net before U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter could get back over. 

The Finns would try to close the gap by pulling their goalie but were unable to do so until much too late, as the Americans consistently won the battle for puck control and kept pushing into Finland's side of the ice as time waned.

While the U.S. dominated the game for nearly all sixty minutes and were simply too fast and relentless for the Finns, the performance of the night belonged to Finland goalie Noora Raty.

Raty saved 40 of 43 shots, good enough for a .930 save percentage. It wasn't just the amount of shots she saved that was impressive, however. Raty came up with basically every type of save you can imagine. Point-blank shots on breakaways, backhand saves, diving stick saves across the goal, blind saves through traffic. Name any type of shot, and Raty probably came up with a save on it.

While letting up three goals may not seem like a dominant performance, Raty was the only thing separating Finland from an embarrassing blowout.  One game in, she has already cemented herself as the top goalie at these Olympics.

American goalie Vetter saved 15 of 16, but many of those saves came on tough breakaways and bouncing deflections. While she wasn't tested often, she did well to make several difficult saves.

The U.S. will next face Switzerland on Monday, while Finland has to try to regroup on Monday against powerhouse Canada.