BEIJING, CHINA - With the goal of defending its gold medal, the United States emerged with a 4-1 victory in their semifinal matchup versus Finland early Monday morning Eastern Time. A total of nine American skaters logged at least one point, while goaltender Alex Cavallini needed only 25 saves for the win.
United States’ Cayla Barnes (3) celebrates after scoring a goal against Finland (PETR DAVID JOSEK, ASSOCIATED PRESS).
Surprisingly, the score remained scoreless after the first period. Finnish goaltender Anni Keisala stopped all 12 American shots, part of a period that did not have any penalties. As a side note, Finland’s only scoring chance in the first saw Michelle Karvinen lead a two-on-one.
Blueliner Cayla Barnes broke the scoreless tie less than four minutes into the second. With Tanja Niskanen serving a tripping penalty, the U.S. seized the opportunity. Hannah Brandt and
Hilary Knight logged the assists, resulting in a brush with history. Recording her 25th Olympic point, Knight tied Natalie Darwitz for second all-time among American competitors.
Following Barnes’ goal, tensions mounted quickly. Just 46 seconds after Dani Cameranesi was sent to the penalty box for an illegal hit, Jesse Compher, making her Olympic debut in Beijing, and Petra Niemminen, one of Finland’s leading scorers, were both called for roughing.
Before the second expired, a period that saw the U.S. outshoot Finland by a tremendous 21-6 margin, Knight surpassed Darwitz, recording her 26th point. Scoring a goal at the 18:53 mark, with Savannah Harmon and Kendall Coyne-Schofield earning the assists, Finland remained capable of a comeback in the third, trailing only by a 2-0 score.
Attempting to regroup on offense, Finland benefitted from the strong play of Keisala, who remained poised between the pipes. Nullifying an American powerplay opportunity early in the third, as Nieminen was called for cross-checking, the first 15 minutes of the third were scoreless.
Outshooting the U.S. by a 14-9 mark in the third, Finland remained unable of chipping away at the U.S. lead. With less than five minutes remaining, the Americans added to their lead, as Hayley Scamurra found the back of the net.
Despite the 3-0 deficit, an opportunity presented itself for Finland. Forty-two seconds following Scamurra’s goal, Abby Roque, who was one of four athletes to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Winter Olympic preview, was called for tripping.
Removing Keisala in favour of an extra attacker to begin the power lay, Finland remained unable to get back into the game. With time fading, opportunities firmly out of reach, a trio of Finnish veterans managed to spoil Cavallini's bid for a shutout.
Scoring with only 26 seconds remaining, Susanna Tapani recorded Finland's only goal, with captain Jenni Hiirikoski and Michelle Karvinen logging the assists. Retaining an extra attacker, Roque redeemed herself for her previous penalty, placing the puck into the empty net in a 4-1 victory.
With the victory, the U.S. makes its sixth appearance in the gold medal game, all versus Canada. In a rematch of the bronze medal game from Sochi 2014, Finland and Switzerland shall face off early Wednesday, February 16.