By Josh Ferguson
The United States solidified a semifinal match against Sweden by beating Finland 6-0 at UBC Thunderbird Arena on Thursday.
The win for the Americans wraps up a perfect preliminary round that saw them outscore their Group B opponents 31-1 in three games.
Julie Chu got the United States on the board 8:08 into the first when she showcased her hand-eye skills by deflecting a waist-high point shot from Angela Ruggiero through the legs of Finnish netminder Noora Raty.
Raty was under heavy fire from the Americans in the opening frame and received little support from her teammates. Finnish standout Linda Valimaki tried to help her keeper by blocking a Molly Engstrom point shot with her stick, but ended up deflecting the puck passed Raty to give the Americans a two-goal lead.
It was that kind of opening 20 minutes for the Finns as the Americans would add singles from Meghan Duggan and Natalie Darwitz to take a 4-0 lead into the intermission. Team USA outshot Finland 20-9 in the first period.
Finland did a much better job of containing the American’s ability to generate any offense in the second period, but failed to produce any themselves. Hilary Knight ruined any chance of a Finnish comeback when she scored her first goal of the tournament 11:48 into the middle frame to make it 5-0.
Karen Thatcher would add the game’s final goal late in the third to solidify the win for the Americans, who received singles from six different players.
Jessie Vetter was perfect in goal for the Americans and stopped all 23 shots she faced for the shutout, including an Anne Helin penalty shot in the third period.
The penalty shot awarded to Helin was the first in the history of women’s hockey at the Olympics.
Despite allowing four goals in the first period, Raty was solid for the Finns and finished the game with 36 saves on 42 shots.
Erika Lawler returned to the lineup for the Americans after sitting out Game 2 against the Russians with an ankle injury.
The medal round is now ready to go on Monday when the Americans battle Sweden and the Finns faceoff against Canada for a berth into the gold medal game.