beijing: through two games at the 2022 winter olympics, defending champion u.s. uu. the women’s hockey team has had a couple of wins, in very different ways.
the first, a 5-2 win over finland on thursday, forced the us. uu. rely on speed and finesse. on saturday, in a 5-0 victory over the russian olympic committee, the americans had to achieve a physical victory. they entered the third period with a 2-0 margin before pouring in a trio of goals in a span of eight minutes and 44 seconds to open the final frame.
Reading: Usa vs russia women’s hockey
united states will continue play in pool a on sunday against switzerland.
But first, here are five takeaways from the team’s victory on Saturday:
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win multiple ways
It’s only two games, but the opposite form of wins is a confidence booster, forward Hilary Knight said. the team entered these games having not played a game against another team since December. 17.
“I would say this start has been a good opportunity for growth,” Knight said. “We haven’t had many games, like other teams. It’s good to find out, we know our identity, we know our character in the room, but it’s good to test ourselves and figure out how to make our way through a tournament with different obstacles.”
one “hurdle” roc presented on saturday was fouling him in front of the net. That didn’t stop Knight from hitting a wrist shot off Savannah Harmon to make it 2-0 in the second period.
“I thought we played really well, it just looked different than it did two days ago. I thought we generated possession, we generated a lot of shooting opportunities,” head coach joel johnson said. “the combination of a good goalkeeping for the russian team and also the defensive style they played limited our quality chances, so we keep making adjustments.”
“if the third period was the first, everyone feels different. but you play 60 minutes. between the first and second periods, we remind ourselves that we are still winning a hockey game 2-0. it starts with defense and we have to trust our process.
a common point between the games was the big difference in shots on goal between the us. uu. and his opponents. they outshot finland 51-12 two days ago and outscored him 62-12 against roc. after the fifth goal, la roc took out goalkeeper maria sorokina, who saved 38 shots, some at close range.
defender savannah harmon shines on offense
the player who leads the us. in points through two games he is not a striker. That distinction belongs to defender Harmon, who scored the game’s opening goal and then added two assists after scoring a pair of assists against Finland.
“I think savannah is a really gifted, instinctive offensive player,” johnson said. “So when he sees an opportunity to go to the net or make a play or shoot the puck, he sees it the way not a lot of people do.”
his goal came from a pass from behind knight in front of the net. it was something the knight had been practicing before the game.
“I was kidding sav,” Knight said, “I was like, ‘Just meet yourself down there in the points. It’s coming.’
“Savannah has to see that to be able to be in that place. that’s a great skill set and something that is greatly underrated.”
knight, who has lived in harmony during the pandemic, added that it’s something you see more at the nhl level.
“and he’s showing up here… having a defender that can go two-way is unreal for us,” knight said.
Nicole Hensley raises bar in net
united states went with a different look between the pipes, as goalkeeper nicole hensley scored the shutout after maddie rooney, the shootout heroine in the gold medal game against canada four years ago, conceded two goals in 12 shots against finland in the first game of the tournament.
staying sharp without seeing much action, and rising to the occasion on roc’s few scoring opportunities, is nothing new for the 27-year-old, whom knight referred to as “no lights”.
“I’ve seen her do that in the past,” Johnson said. “That’s just part of some of these games at any level of hockey. When you own the puck and control the game, you have to have a great goalie who doesn’t fall asleep. And we got that tonight and it was great.”
johnson said he and staff discussed the change the night of finland’s victory, a normal part of their process, he added. it will be interesting if he rotates the position during the tournament or goes with hensley, who has proven to be more confident.
abbey murphy enjoys the role of spark plug, but must be careful
for the third, the game became quite complicated, since the seeds had been planted before.
When time expired in the first period, a forward from the roc ran away but didn’t shoot before the horn sounded. she fired one after the horn anyway, much to the annoyance of the us. uu. equipment. Hensley raised her arms in disapproval and defender Megan Bozek slammed the offender into the boards for what she and her teammates considered an unnecessary attempt.
Late in the third, Roc’s Maria Pechnikova was called for an illegal hit on Abbey Murphy, but the fiery teen didn’t allow penalty minutes to serve as her only discipline. she jumped off the ice and put her left fist on pechnikova’s grill; for that, she herself earned two minutes in the bin.
“I’m having fun,” said the 19-year-old, acknowledging that she cannot help her team from the penalty area. she served four of the team’s six penalty minutes.
“That’s me as a player. I try to be smart on those aspects, but also bring that side to the team,” Murphy said. “There’s a time and a place. Obviously, we have to stand up for ourselves when it comes to that.”
Between penalties, Murphy made a clever spin pass near the blue line to set up Jesse Compher for the United States’ fourth goal. alex carpenter scored his third goal in three days to round out the score.
“not a lot of people can make that play, and murph is one of them,” johnson said. “Our team has a lot of different personalities. She’s one of them and she’s an important piece of the puzzle and I’m glad she’s on our roster.”
grace zumwinkle scored before compher and alex carpenter scored his third goal in three days for the final tally.
united states find out without brianna decker
brianna decker broke her left ankle in the first half against finland and will miss the rest of the olympics. On the ice, the team advanced Abby Roque to the middle and shuffled other players to reconfigure lines.
“We have a lot of depth at center,” Johnson said, noting the versatility of forwards Alex Carpenter and Kelly Panek, “and that’s a luxury we have. Matchups and combinations are still something we’re working on.” .
but the reality is that there is no replacement decker in the lineup. johnson knows it.
decker is still with the team and making an impact off the ice, johnson said.
“She’s still leading,” Johnson said. “She continues to be a huge influence on our team.”
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