Finland FIN
6 APR 2024
United States USA
Preliminary Round
19:00Adirondack Bank Center
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Game details
NEARY Shauna
WELSH Kirsten
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United States outlasts feisty Finns
By Ameeta VOHRA | 07 APR 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Matt Zambonin
The United States got a bit of a scare from an aggressively inspired Finnish team on Saturday night.

However, the host team prevailed and outlasted their opponents to take a 5-3 victory at the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship in Utica, New York.

Finland got on the scoreboard first as the team capitalized on the powerplay 6:54 into the first period.  The play began when captain Jenni Hiirikoski brought the puck out of the Finnish zone.  She passed it to Elisa Holopainen who came off the rush and blasted the puck top shelf past the shoulder of United States goaltender Aerin Frankel.

About a 1:04 later, the United States responded and got the equalizer.  Hannah Bilka transitioned the puck the other way and drove to the net.  Abbey Murphy found the puck and tipped it over the pad of Finnish goatender Anni Keisala for the goal.

On the powerplay, captain Hilary Knight ripped a shot to the net.  On the way, the puck was redirected just enough by a Finnish player to end up into the net, giving the United States the lead with 1:44 remaining in the period.

Finland scored on the powerplay to round out the period. With 24.8 seconds left, Holopainen paused with the puck and faked the shot while moving to the left.  Then, Holopainen repositioned herself quickly to the right and scored her second powerplay goal of the game.

After serving a 2:00 penalty for hooking, Taylor Heise came out of the penalty box and immediately got the puck.  The forward waited, pressed forward and then made no mistake in burying the puck past Keisala and into the net. The United States regained the lead with Heise's goal at 7:42 of the second period.

Kendall Coyne Schofield gave the United States the lead when she scored with 8:20 left in the period.  The defensive forced a turnover in the neutral zone. Coyne Schofield's forehand shot motioned the puck to hit Hiirikoski 's skate and into the net for the goal.

With 40 seconds left in the second period, Keisala made a save which Susanna Tapani scooped up.  The forward shot the puck down to Sofianna Sundelin who was at the middle of the ice.  Sundelin walked into the Finnish zone alone and with her backhand, buried the puck past Frankel to pull Finland within one goal.

Right off the face-off, the United States' Alex Carpenter got possession of the puck at the start of the third period.  Deep in Finland's zone, Carpenter passed the puck to Knight who tried to get it past Keisala but was unsuccessful.  However, Coyne Schofield was knocking on the doorstep and buried the puck into the net to give the United States a two-goal lead 15 seconds into the period. That score was Coyne Schofield's second of the night.

The Finns kept on pressing in the third period with their relentless and aggressive play, but could not overcome the deficit in the face of the home crowd chanting and cheering on the host team.

“Every game is a test," Coyne Schofield says.  "They came out hard you know, coming off the back-to-back quick turnaround, but unbelievably proud that we were able to lean on for the adversity we faced early but the special teams we have after the first period we settled in, got some of momentum going, stringed some shifts together, battled hard and finished the way we needed to.”

The host team are inspired to improve because of the support of the home fans in attendance at the games.

"The USA chants really elevate your heart rate, regardless of the moment of the game, so the atmosphere was phenomenal tonight," Coyne Schofield says.  "It's only going get better as we keep getting deeper in the tournament."

For Heise, she had never experienced what it was like to play at home until this tournament. It was a surreal moment and came full circle on Saturday night.

"The crowds a plus one for us," Heise says.  "They're like the audience plus one, the crowd and their chants are a plus one. So today when the USA chants are going, and seeing that moment on the benches, we love it and it's something we haven't felt. I've never played on home soil, except for this tournament and in the five years I've played. It's an honor and it's just something you got to take advantage of because you never know when it’s going to be here again.”

The United States will renew their rivalry with Canada when the two teams battle on Monday April 8th.

“I'd like to see a positive outcome," Heise says.  "We're trying to work through that and get ourselves obviously to play the Canada game, but then farther after that. I'm excited to see our girls and I'm excited that we got more to give as well.”

Despite the loss, Keisala faced 45 shots on goal.

"“It was a pretty good fight, but we can also do a little better," Holopainen says. "We'd have to be right on top of our game. We've been playing well against these teams.”

Finland will look for their first win against Switzerland on Monday April 8th.

"It will be a good game, at a better level than we’ve seen so far," Holopainen says. "We have to be more efficient with our scoring chances.”