After having a loss last week to the Canadian squad hanging over their heads for five days, Team USA came out firing against Sweden on Monday, winning their semi-final matchup handily in a 6-1 drubbing in Sochi.
The victory catapults the American women into the gold medal game on Thursday, where they will face the winner of Monday afternoon’s tilt between Canada and Switzerland.
There were worries among some that the U.S. squad would have to shake off some rust after having four days off thanks to the new Olympic pool format, but those fears were quickly assuaged. Just six minutes into the contest, Kelli Stack found Megan Bozek near the goal line, and the American forward made a nifty wraparound attempt that was steered wide. Fortunately for the U.S. side, Alex Carpenter was there to clean up the mess, poking in the rebound and giving her team a 1-0 lead.
Just over a minute later, the Americans score again. Bozek and Brianna Decker engaged in a lovely bit of puck cycling near the point, and it eventually found its way to Kacey Bellamy. She wound up and blasted a shot that got through the traffic provided in front of the net by Hilary Knight, and the puck found its way into the net to put the U.S. up 2-0.
As the period wore on, the American squad continued to pound away at Sweden, and they were rewarded with yet another goal. This time, it was Gigi Marvin and Decker pounding away at a loose puck in front, and it eventually found its way onto the stick of Amanda Kessel, who calmly flipped the puck into the net to make it a 3-0 game.
Somehow, the Swedes were able to keep the Americans off the board for the rest of the period, but the numbers weren’t pretty. Team USA outshot them by a margin of 29-1, nearly breaking their record from the Nagano Games of 34 shots in a period. At any rate, the score was 3-0 after the first period, but the U.S. squad wasn’t done yet.
Early in the frame, both Monique Lamoureux and Carpenter got some great scoring chances, but both were turned away by Valentina Wallner in the Swedish net. About six minutes into the frame, the Americans were finally able to beat her again, as Monique Lamoureux took a pass at the point from her twin sister Jocelyne and blasted home a shot to extend the lead to four goals.
After the Swedes failed to score on a power play, the U.S. seized the momentum back and scored again. This time, it was Bozek firing a shot from the point through traffic and scoring off of a nice pass from her fellow Illinois native Kendall Coyne to make it 5-0, a result that held for the remainder of the period.
The Americans came out in the third period still dominating possession time, but they had some trouble solving Kim Martin Hasson, who came in relief in the second period. Sweden tried their best to help out their goaltender with an aggressive push as the period passed its halfway point, and they were finally able to get on the board. Pernilla Winberg won the face-off, and the puck eventually found its way back to Emma Eliasson at the point, and her shot was tipped in by Anna Borgqvist to make it a 5-1 game.
Jocelyn Lamoureux had an opportunity to score on a penalty shot just a minute later, but she was stopped by Martin Hasson. The Americans kept pressing for just one more goal, and they finally got it when Kessel fed the puck to Decker, whose shot rang off the crossbar but then deflected into the net off a Swedish skate to make it a 6-1 game.
In the game, the Americans racked up 70 shots as they clinched their berth in the gold medal game. They will await the winner of this afternoon’s tilt between Canada and Switzerland, with the final game of the tournament sent for Thursday morning in Sochi.