"We're really approaching the rest of the tournament with a chip on our shoulder," said U.S. scoring leader Hilary Knight. "I think it was a great response today by our squad and that was shown on the scoreboard."
Knight led the way with two goals and an assist to pass fellow icon Cammi Granato as the all-time American leader with 80 career Women’s Worlds points. This eight-time world champion is now third all-time behind retired Canadian superstars Hayley Wickenheiser (86 points) and Jayna Hefford (83 points).
"To learn from some of the greats, to be able to play with some of the greats has been an honor," Knight said. "It's a special night. I was happy I could celebrate it with the girls. But obviously, you kind of have to put that to the sidea nd understand that it's a one game tournament at this point. "
Alex Carpenter and Grace Zumwinkle stepped up with a pair of goals apiece. Rookie blueliner Caroline Harvey shone with a goal and two assists, while Megan Keller, Brianna Decker, and Dani Cameranesi each had a goal and an assist. Amanda Kessel and Cayla Barnes chipped in two assists apiece.
The U.S. bounced back strongly after a crushing 5-1 loss to Canada to close out the group stage. Coach Joel Johnson’s team started this tournament with three consecutive shutouts, 3-0 over both Switzerland and Finland and 6-0 over the ROC team.
"You take a loss like that and it's tough, right?" Knight said. "You take it right in the chin, and you have to get back up and keep going and figuring out what works, what doesn't work. We're nowhere near our potential right now, and I think that's the inspiring thing. "
The Americans are now two wins away from capturing their sixth consecutive Women’s Worlds title. If they pull it off, it’ll be their tenth gold medal, equalling archrival Canada’s all-time record.
Even with the lopsided defeat, Japanese women’s hockey took an historic step forward. Forward Akane Shiga scored Japan’s first two goals ever against the Americans in IIHF play.
"We expected them to play well, so we just had to [go out there and try]," Akane Shiga said. "Finally I scored two goals. I'm so happy."
The Japanese still have a chance to achieve their best Women’s Worlds results ever when placement games get underway on Sunday. They’ve never come higher than seventh place (2008, 2015). At the Olympics, their peak is sixth (1998, 2018).
"The players are keeping a high motivation to play," said head coach Yuji Iizuka. "We don't know against which team at the moment, but we're going to keep playing Japan's hockey."
The Americans outshot Japan 61-12. Unusually, both sides used both their goalies.
Johnson gave goalie Alex Cavallini, who was pulled against Canada after surrendering four goals on 20 shots, her fourth start in Calgary. Cavallini (nee Rigsby) was between the pipes at the end of the Women’s Worlds gold medal games the U.S. won in 2015, 2016, and 2019. Against Japan, she let in two goals on 10 shots, and Nicole Hensley took over for the third period.
"There was no intent to disturb anything in a controversial mode," said Johnson. "We're so excited with Alex and Nicole. They're both incredible goaltenders, and whoever gets the start in our next game is going to absolutely backstop us in a great way. "
Japanese netminder Nana Fujimoto, who battled hard but wasn’t at her elite best, allowed the first seven U.S. goals before being relieved by rookie Akane Konishi just after the midpoint.
At 3:10, Carpenter, a perennial contender for the Russian Women’s Hockey League scoring title with the KRS Shenzhen Vanke Rays, made it 1-0 with her first goal in Calgary. Barnes sent the puck from the blue line off the back boards to Amanda Kessel, who backhanded it to Carpenter to convert on the doorstep.
Kessel turned 30 on Saturday, and Carpenter enjoyed helping her celebrate: "We just wanted to get the team going. It was great to be able to connect with Kes today. But more importantly, it got our team going and it set the tone for the rest of the game. The birthday girl!"
Just 31 seconds later, Knight notched her first goal with an aggressive net-front presence. Captain Kendall Coyne Schofield unleashed a wrister from the right faceoff circle that squeezed through Fujimoto’s pads, and the 32-year-old power forward reached in to shovel the puck over the goal line for her 46th career Women’s Worlds goal.
Johnson said of Knight: "You see the impact that she has on her teammates. And I know that there's other veterans who have of plenty of accomplishments of their own. But they would say the same thing about Hillary: that she makes them better."
In the group stage, Knight passed Granato as the leading all-time goal-scorer in tournament history when she scored her 45th goal in a 6-0 victory over the ROC team.
The Japanese got a jolt of energy when they cut the deficit to 2-1 on an odd-player rush at 10:58. Haruka Toko sent the puck cross-ice to Akane Shiga and she whipped it through Cavallini’s pads.
"She used to be a defender and she switched to being a forward," Iizuka said of Akane Shiga. "To score a goal against Team USA, that's historical."
Could Japan’s groundbreaking goal jumpstart an upset? The answer was clearly no. At 14:32, Zumwinkle barged to the front of the net to tip another sweet Kessel backhand through Fujimoto’s pads. Just 35 seconds later, Carpenter outmuscled Aoi Shiga – Akane’s sister – in front to push a rebound through Fujimoto.
Megan Keller made it 5-1 at 17:33 when she jumped in from the line, took Jesse Compher’s centering pass from behind the net, and scored high to the short side.
At 18:53, Akane Shiga added her second of the game, pounding another one-timer off the rush past Cavallini’s blocker.
In the second period, the U.S. continued to swarm the opposition’s net. Knight assisted on Decker’s rebound goal at 5:43 to surpass Granato's career points total and go up 6-2.
An onrushing Harvey got her first Women’s Worlds goal at 8:21 as the 18-year-old rearguard's attempt to find Abby Roque in front deflected in off a Japanese stick. That ended Fujimoto’s outing.
"Our youngsters, you know, they keep us young, and they've been doing a great job," Carpenter said. "It's a lot of fun to see them be successful and help our team in such a big way."
Coming into the Japanese net, Konishi admitted she was nervous at first but then relaxed and saw the puck better. The 26-year-old, who plays for IF Troja-Ljungby in Sweden, made her first save on Knight from the slot, and that was a highlight: "She's one of the top players in the world. I'm so happy to stop her shot."
Two minutes into the third period, Zumwinkle stole the puck from defender Shiori Yamashita in the Japanese zone, cut to the net, and pushed a backhander past Konishi for her fourth of the tournament as a Women's Worlds rookie.
At 3:44, Knight went to the net to get her 47th career Women's Worlds goal and a 9-2 lead, courtesy of a nice centering pass from Harvey from the corner. With 5:21 left, Cameranesi, with her first of the tournament, put the U.S. into double digits for the first time in Calgary.
"Even though we scored 10 goals we wanted to keep our foot on the gas and get ready for the next game," Carpenter said. "That was our focus, working on the little things to make ourselves better."
The U.S. also beat Japan in the 2019 quarter-final in Espoo (4-0). These two nations have only met on two other occasions in IIHF competition. The Americans won 10-0 at the inaugural 1998 Olympic women’s hockey tournament in Nagano and 8-0 at the 2009 Women’s Worlds in Hameenlinna.