The U.S. women’s hockey team began the journey of defending its title from the PyeongChang Olympics Thursday morning, and the squad probably couldn’t have asked for a better performance. They took down Finland by a score of 5-2 and dominated just about every facet of the game.
Unfortunately, it came at a potentially significant cost.
Near the midway point of the game’s first period, star forward Brianna Decker was stretched off the ice after awkwardly getting tangled up with Finnish defender Ronja Savolainen. She remained down on the ice for several minutes before the medical staff wheeled her to the locker room.
Injuries to star players are extremely difficult to overcome, especially in the midst of a game against a strong opponent like Finland. But just a minute after Decker’s injury, Amanda Kessel scored a crucial goal to give the U.S. the lead and, more importantly, direct the team’s focus back onto the game.
It didn’t take long for the U.S. to extend its lead even further. At the 13-minute mark, Alex Carpenter netted a power-play goal off a gorgeous feed from Olympic newcomer Jincy Dunne. The goal came on the United States’ first power play of the tournament.
From there, the U.S. began to pull away at the start of the second period. Largely thanks to the play of team captain Kendall Coyne Schofield. Five minutes into the middle frame, Coyne Schofield potted her first goal of the tournament to give the U.S. a three-goal lead. And just 64 seconds later, she scored again off a deflection in front of the net.
The Finns did end up scoring a goal of their own in the third period when Susanna Tapani chalked up a power-play tally, but Carpenter followed Coyne Schofield’s lead and scored her second of the night to help the U.S. regain the four-goal lead.
Tapani also ended up scoring a second goal later in the third period, but didn’t even know it. In fact, the clock struck zeroes and both teams appeared ready to head back to the locker room when the officials ruled that Tapani had scored with just a couple minutes remaining. The score changed to 5-2 and the game resumed with 2:20 left in the third, but that wasn’t nearly enough time for the Finns to orchestrate a comeback.
Overall, it was an extremely impressive performance from the U.S. against a very competitive Finnish squad. Not only did they outshoot the Finns 52-12, but they also extended their record in Olympic openers to 7-0.
Just about everything went right for the Americans Thursday morning, but it’s also awfully hard to ignore the black cloud that is the injury to Decker hovering over the team as they prepare for their second game of the tournament.
Decker’s status for the remainder of the Olympics is currently unknown.
The U.S. will face off against the ROC Saturday morning at 8:10 a.m. ET.