By TERESA M. WALKER
WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — The Americans breezed through their opener in the Four Nations Cup. Next up is their biggest rival.
Emily Pfalzer had three goals and an assist, helping the United States women rout Finland 8-2 Tuesday night in the round-robin portion of the tournament. Canada also had an easy win in its first game, cruising to a 9-0 victory over Sweden.
The biggest powers in women’s hockey face off again on Wednesday night.
”It’s always one that we look forward to,” Pfalzer said of playing the Canadians again.
The Americans grabbed control against Finland with five goals in the first period, capped by a power-play score for 18-year-old Cayla Barnes. The Boston College freshman is the youngest player on the U.S. roster after she was promoted to the national team Oct. 28.
”That’s why she’s here,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.
Amanda Kessel, Dani Cameranesi and Kelly Pannek each had a goal and an assist.
The Americans have won this tournament seven times, including the last two. They improved to 16-1 against Finland in this event with their fourth straight victory.
Jennifer Wakefield led the way for Canada with her own hat trick and an assist. The Canadians took the first 17 shots before Sweden finally notched its first shot on goal at 4:52 of the second period. Canada finished with as many goals as Sweden had shot attempts.
Canada and the United States have faced off twice recently. The Americans won the first exhibition 5-2 , and the Canadians responded with a 5-1 win in Boston on Oct. 25.
Stauber would rather get a few more hours of rest before playing Canada. The rivals likely will meet again Sunday for the tournament title.
”We played hard tonight,” Stauber said. ”When it’s Finland, Sweden, Canada or any other country, nobody’s just going to roll over. No one’s rolling over.”
The U.S. beat Finland 5-3 in their previous meeting April 3 in a preliminary round at the world championships.
This time, the Americans attacked goalie Meeri Raisanen early and often, outshooting Finland 14-1 in the first 20 minutes. Hilary Knight, who scored the overtime goal to win gold at the world championships last spring, started the scoring 3:52 into the game.
Eveliina Suonpaa replaced Raisanen, and Finland finally started pressuring goalie Maddie Rooney – the second-youngest American. Isa Rahunen got the puck past Rooney with 46.5 seconds left in the second. Linda Valimaki added a power-play goal with 2:41 left. Pannek went to the box for kneeing Ronja Savolainen, who had to be helped to the bench before going to the locker room.