by Ralph Routon
Monique Lamoureux scored a hat trick, including two goals in the third period, as the United States steamrolled to a 9-1 victory against Sweden on Monday in their Winter Olympics women's hockey semifinal at Canada Hockey Place.
Angela Ruggiero and Caitlin Cahow contributed goals in the first six minutes of the second period, and center Karen Thatcher fired in another as the United States took a 5-1 lead after two periods and then cruised from there before a crowd of about 19,000, one of the largest audiences ever to see a women's hockey game.
Lamoureux and Meghan Duggan scored 69 seconds apart in the first period, as the Americans moved quickly to begin avenging their unexpected 3-2 shootout loss to Sweden in the 2006 Olympic semifinals. This time, the U.S. women expect to face Canada in the gold-medal game Thursday night.
U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter made a point-blank save early in the game but wasn't tested much thereafter, as the Americans dominated the shots on goal by a 46-12 margin.
"Our journey's still going," Vetter said. "Personally, I'd rather play Canada. They're a challenge."
Lamoureux took a pass just inside the blue line, saw an opening and skated in on the net, slipping the puck under Swedish goaltender Kim Martin's pads at 7:14 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. With thousands of Canadians cheering for Sweden, the U.S. went on a power play soon thereafter, crashed in on Martin, and Duggan lifted the puck over the prone goalie at 8:23 to make it 2-0.
They were particularly impressive on their defensive end, blocking most of Sweden's attempts and controlling the puck. But after the Americans' two goals in the middle period, Sweden made it 4-1 with a power-play goal.
That was Sweden's only moment to celebrate.
"It's probably the best Monday we could ever have," four-time U.S. Olympian Ruggiero said. "We're at the Olympics, we win to put us in the gold-medal game, and we have such a big crowd. But this wasn't our best game. We still have more in the tank."