Hilary Knight scored 53 seconds into the opener of the Olympic women’s hockey tournament Saturday, and Jesse Vetter needed only 14 saves to lead the United States to a 3-1 victory over Finland.
Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter also scored for the Americans, who avoided a repeat of Finland’s upset at the Four Nations Cup in November in Lake Placid. Finnish goalie Noora Raty made 58 saves in that one but allowed three goals on 43 shots this time around at the Shayba Ice Arena.
Pearl River’s Josephine Pucci, playing in her first Olympics, was on the ice for 12:13 on defense for Team USA.
Susanna Tapani scored a power-play goal for Finland with 4:38 to play for the final margin.
Canada defeated Switzerland 5-0 later Saturday in the other opener for Group A, which includes all of the medal favorites. The United States will play Switzerland on Monday, and a victory then would put the Americans in the semifinals.
A crowd of more than 4,000 hadn’t even settled into the seats at the puck-shaped Olympic venue when Raty, a two-time NCAA champion who went 41-0 at Minnesota in her senior season, was beaten on the first shot. After a giveaway at the blue line, Knight went in all alone and scored over the goalie’s right shoulder.
“I was like, ‘All right, here it is. We’re going to score here,’ ” said Knight, who lives in Sun Valley, Idaho, and played for the University of Wisconsin. “When you get a goal, especially in the first minute, it always deflates the other team.”
But Raty wouldn’t let the game turn into a blowout, shutting down the Americans for the next 27 minutes before Stack deflected a pass from Megan Bozek — Raty’s college roommate — to make it 2-0.
With 4:01 left in the second period, the Americans got another good bounce when Carpenter, daughter of former NHL star Bobby Carpenter, backhanded the puck into the crease. It deflected off a defender and behind Raty to make it 3-0.
“We talk a lot about how there are no snapshots on the scorecard,” said coach Katey Stone, who is on leave from Harvard to guide Team USA. “If it’s an ugly one, it’s an ugly one. And sometimes against a fantastic goaltender, that’s how you have to get it done.”