by Ralph Routon
For eight minutes of hockey Thursday afternoon, Finland stood up well to the United States in their final pool-play game of the Winter Olympics, even with a 9-8 edge over the Americans in shots on goal.
Then, suddenly Julie Chu redirected a shot by Angela Ruggiero past Finn goaltender Noora Raty, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead. That woke up the crowd of about 5,000 inside the University of British Columbia's Thunderbird Arena. And, suddenly, the Americans were in total control, cruising onward to a 6-0 victory helped by a strong performance in the nets by Jessie Vetter.
Goals from Molly Engstrom, Meghan Duggan and Natalie Darwitz built a 4-0 lead at the first intermission with a 20-9 edge in shots. Finland didn't collapse, but the U.S. women added one goal each in the final two periods. Vetter made 23 saves, several spectacular, topped by denying a penalty shot after a U.S. penalty on a breakaway.
"This was more of a hockey game," Engstrom said afterward, looking back on earlier blowout wins against China and Russia. "And it's a good thing, because we need to be more on our toes from now on."
So the U.S. continues its streak of never losing an Olympic pool-play game, setting the same semifinal matchups as in 2006: Canada vs. Finland and the U.S. vs. Sweden. That turned into a disaster for Team USA, as Swede goalie Kim Martin shut down the Americans at the end of a 3-2 shootout upset.
The semifinals will be Monday, with the gold-medal game next Thursday.