Team USA got goals from five different players and Annelies Bergmann made 23 saves en route to a shutout.
“I’m so grateful to be a part of this, this whole experience has been amazing,” Team USA forward Maggie Scannell said.
“We had a team first mentality and that’s what got us the medal," added Joy Dunne.
The bronze medal game is a tricky one. It’s a game between teams that have had their dreams crushed just 24 hours prior. Usually, the team that recovers better also wins the game.
“They needed some time to process and luckily, we’ve got coach Decker who’s got so much experience and she had some good words for the team. It was hard for a couple of hours, but once we got going, they just wanted to win and play another game together,” said Team USA head coach Katie Lachapelle.
Now, the Finns’ semi-final game went into overtime which cut into their recovery time even more than simply playing in the later semi-final would’ve done. Fifteen hours after the Finnish players left the rink disappointed by their loss, they were back at the arena, getting ready for warm-ups.
That may explain why the team lacked some intensity, compared to the semi-final game.
“We’re disappointed, but the girls gave everything they had today, again. I don’t think we played poorly, but goal scoring has been a challenge for us,” said Finland’s head coach Mira Kuisma.
“Besides winning medals, we also want to develop players and I was very pleased to see how the players grew during the tournament," she added.
All but one.
With three minutes remaining in the period, Anabella Fanale played the puck to Elly Klepinger who fired a shot from the blueline through traffic. Kuja-Halkola lost it for a second, and before she realized the puck had bounced off the back board, Joy Dunne already had it and backhanded it into the net.
Team USA outshot Finland 17-3 in the period.
The U.S. goalie Annelies Bergmann took the game’s first penalty, for tripping. The penalty was served by Samantha Taber and when she got out of the box, she lingered in the neutral zone. Maggie Scannell found her with a long stretch pass, sending her on a breakaway, and Taber didn’t miss. She dangled the puck in through Kuja-Halkola’s five-hole at 14.31.
Less than two minutes later, Lindzi Avar took a shot from the top of the circle, it was blocked, and the puck found its way to Kendra Distad who elegantly backhanded it top shelf, with 3.36 remaining in the period.
Finnish coach Mira Kuisma put Pauliina Salonen and Sanni Vanhanen together again, but not even Finland's dynamic duo could break the US defence. Instead, Alexandra Lalonde made it 4-0 with a wicked wrister from the right faceoff dot with ten and a half minutes remaining in the period.
Fanale sealed the final score, 5-0, into an empty Finnish net with two minutes remaining in the game.
“Obviously, it was upsetting to lose the semifinal, but we gave ourselves a couple of hours, snapped out of it and realized that we had another game to play. And I think we proved that we have good characters on the team. I’m proud of this team for that," said Team USA defender Molly Jordan who averaged most ice time of all players in the tournament, 27 minutes.
Even a bronze medal is a medal, noted coach Lachapelle.
“We’re here for the hockey but the memories they’re going to have from everything else. Now they walk away with a bronze, which is a great accomplishment but the memories from the two weeks is something they can have forever," she concluded.