The United States is through to the gold medal final.
Natalie Darwitz and Krissy Wendell scored first period goals as the Americans earned an opportunity to defend their World Women's Hockey Championship title with a 4-0 victory over Finland in front of an appreciative 4,758 fans at MTS Centre last night.
The win gives the U.S. four points in the qualifying round, ensuring a spot in tomorrow's final against either Canada or the Finns. Those two countries skate today (7:30 p.m., MTS Centre, TSN), with the winner advancing to face the Americans.
"We knew the importance of this game," Wendell said. "We knew we had to be prepared and we knew we had to win to get to play on Tuesday."
How the U.S. would respond after dropping an emotional 5-4 shootout loss to Canada on Saturday was answered early in the game against Finland. The Stars and Stripes immediately took it to the Finns, peppering goaltender Noora Raty with pressure and forcing the previously perfect 17-year-old to come up big early.
Darwitz broke the ice at the 9:53 mark of the game, when she cleaned up some loose garbage in the crease on a broken play.
Wendell scored later on a nice individual effort, cruising through the slot in traffic and sliding a shot through Raty to double the lead. That was the game.
Team USA's Chanda Gunn finished the game with 13 saves. Raty faced 37 shots and was the reason the Finns kept the score respectable.
"I'm very happy that we can play two games against (such) good teams," Finnish coach Hannu Saintula said about his country being in the qualifying round against the U.S. and Canada. "We learn (something) every minute."
Molly Engstrom and Kristin King had the other goals for the Americans.
FINAL SHOT: As of yesterday, there were about 2,500 tickets left for the Canada/Finland game. The gold medal match is sold out.