GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Goaltender Noora Raty saw Hilary Knight with the puck on her stick and moved to defend against the dangerous American.
Knight passed the puck, Kendall Coyne scored the go-ahead goal at 11:29 of the second period on a one-timer and the United States rallied to beat Finland 3-1 to remain perfect when opening an Olympic tournament.
“Knighter got there out of the corner, I need to commit to her because she’s the best shot in the world,” Raty said. “So for once she actually passed, and hats off to Coyner. She went top shelf. Really nice goal.”
Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Dani Cameranesi also scored as the Americans improved to 6-0 all-time in Olympic openers. They also improved to 7-0 against Finland in the Olympics, though the world’s third-ranked team made the defending world champions work hard in a chippy game.
Venla Hovi scored on a wrist shot from the slot with 5.8 seconds left in the first period, giving the Finns the lead and a reason to celebrate going into intermission. U.S. coach Robb Stauber said they had three players around but somehow missed Hovi.
“It’s great to be able to make a mistake like that and still get a win because on any given night a mistake like that can hurt you,” Stauber said. “It didn’t. It brings a level awareness to what we’ve talked about.”
A four-time Olympian and two-time NCAA champion at Minnesota, Raty stopped all 11 shots she faced in the first, but the Americans picked up the pressure in the second.
Lamoureux-Morando came into these games among the top five active scoring leaders in the Olympics with 14 points. She took a beating at times, being taken down early and getting a left in the face from Rosa Lindstedt of Finland with no penalty called.
But Stauber had the three-time Olympian on a line with her sister, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, and Kelly Pannek in a recent line change to take advantage of the twins’ chemistry. The trio fought for the puck in the right corner, and Lamoureux-Morando skated in front of the net where Raty stopped her backhander. The forward scored off the rebound past the Finn goalie’s right skate at 8:58 of the second.
“I think that was kind of the monkey off all of our backs to be able to put the first one in, and I think we’re a team that really builds off momentum,” Lamoureux-Morando said. “Once we get one, the rest usually start to fall, and we were able to get another quick one right after with Kendall’s goal.”
The Americans took a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal at 11:29. Knight passed to Coyne, who put a one-timer into the top of the net.
Stauber had not tipped his hand before game day on which of three Olympic rookies he would put in net. The coach went with his youngest in 20-year-old Maddie Rooney of Andover, Minnesota, who came in 4-0-2 in pre-Olympic exhibition games and made 23 saves in winning her Olympic debut.
Rooney was at her best as the Americans killed two penalties in the third when the Finns outshot them 10-8.
“That’s just a huge game for her and a huge game for our team,” Stauber said.
The Americans will play the Olympic Athletes from Russia on Tuesday before wrapping up the preliminary round against their biggest rival, Canada – winner of the past four Olympic gold medals.
“I’m very thankful for a hard-fought first game because it shouldn’t be easy, and it wasn’t easy,” Stauber said.
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