Amanda Kessel had two goals and an assist for the U.S. Shots favoured the U.S. by a whopping margin of 72-16. Needless to say, Best Player honours for the Finns was goalie Anni Keisala, who fought the barrage as best as anyone could have expected.
"She played really, really well," enthused coach Juuso Toivola. "She gave us the opportunity to win the game, but the U.S. was too storng. We're looking forward to meeting them again."
It was the 22nd meeting between these teams in Women’s Worlds history, and the Americans hold a mammoth 20-1-1 record over the Finns. The Finns were without two of their top players, however, Petra Nieminen (suspended) and Susanna Tapani.
"We missed those two players, but the rest of the team showed that they can play good hockey," Toivola continued. "But the U.S. are strong and skate well, and we knew that. We need to keep going and fight to beat them some day."
"There's always something to improve on," said Hilary Knight of the U.S.. "That's the game of hockey. There are always ways we can continue to push our development, and we're excited about what we saw on the ice tonight, but we're still hungry to get better. We're continuing to grow, and that speaks to the commitment in the room and makes it such a wonderful group to be a part of."
But in all those previous 21 meetings, few have seen the U.S. dominate the way they did in the opening period. They outshot Suomi 28-2, and the only reason teams went to the dressing room in a 1-0 U.S. lead was the other-worldly play of Keisala, who had been stellar two nights ago against Canada.
But this was different. The U.S. came out and controlled every second of play, their puck pursuit and individual speed no match for the Finns, who were left to twist and turn in their own end trying to catch up to play that was always ahead of them. But Keisala was a rock, snuffing shots and allowing precious few rebounds, holding her posts, and staying square to the shooter.
Controversy swirled midway through the period, though. On one of the very few times the puck was in the U.S. end, Sanni Vanhanen caused a turnover, and in a heartbeat Julia Liikala beat Maddie Rooney, making her first start of the tournament, with a high shot to tie the game. But as Suomi celebrated, referee Nikoleta Celarova was signalling a hooking penalty to Vanhanen. No goal. Still 1-0 USA.
The Finns started the second on the power play that carried over from the end of the first, but the best chance of the advantage came from Lacey Eden on the U.S., and as soon as they were back at full strength, they repeated their domination of the first 20 minutes. They went up 2-0 at 8:53 when Cayla Barnes’s wrister from the point was tipped by Abby Roque in front, and they scored again five minutes later. That one, however, was nullified by a coach’s challenge and video review.
No matter. The Americans soon went to the power play again, and connected. This time it was Amanda Kessel rapping in a rebound to the back side of Keisala at 17:11 in a period in which shots were 25-5 for the U.S.
The Finns finally got on the board just 46 seconds into the third after a faceoff loss. Liikala pressed Lee Stecklein behind the goal, forced a turnover, and got the puck to Ella Viitasuo. Her quick shot beat Rooney high over the shoulder, and now a U.S. dominated game was, somehow, a little closer.
Not for long. The Americans went right back to the attack and reclaimed their three-goal lead when Taylor Heise made a nice back pass in front to Kessel, who snapped it in over the pad of Keisala for her secondof the game.
The Americans added two late goals to close out the scoring. Hannah Bilka scored into an empty net at 17:43 and Hannah Brandt popped in a rebound of a Hilary Knight shot soon after.