PLYMOUTH, Mich. (AP) In their final game before the start of single-elimination play, Hannah Brandt and her American teammates faced a stern challenge at the women’s hockey world championship.
Finland had tied the score in the third period, and goalie Noora Raty had been holding the U.S. at bay.
”We want close games. We want to have to battle,” Brandt said. ”We’re going to need that going into the semis and hopefully the finals.”
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Brandt scored with 7:35 remaining in the game, and the United States beat Finland 5-3 on Monday night to secure the top seed for the knockout round of the tournament.
Hilary Knight scored twice for the Americans, who won all three of their games in group play and will advance straight to Thursday’s semifinals, where they’ll face the winner of a quarterfinal between Russia and Germany.
”I thought that was a great test for our team,” Brandt said.
Canada received the other bye into the semis and will take on the winner of a Finland-Sweden quarterfinal. The quarterfinals are Tuesday.
”It will be a rivalry (Tuesday),” Finland captain Jenni Hiirikoski said. ”There’s a lot of friends in that team, and it’s nice to play against them.”
Finland upset Canada 4-3 on Saturday, and the Finns would have received one of the two byes if they’d been able to earn a point against the U.S.
They rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie the game at 3 in the third period, but Brandt put the Americans back ahead, redirecting a nice pass from Gigi Marvin. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson added an empty-net goal for the U.S.
Raty, who had 35 saves against Canada, had 35 against the Americans as well, keeping the game close until the very end.
Shortly after Brandt’s goal put the U.S. ahead, the Americans had to kill off 95 seconds of a 5-on-3 disadvantage. They were able to do it.
”We knew Finland was going to come to play,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said. ”They’re a great team. We saw what they did against Canada the other night.”
After a dispute with USA Hockey that had players threatening to boycott this tournament, the women’s national team reached an agreement to end the wage dispute shortly before the event started. Then the Americans began the competition with a 2-0 win over rival Canada.
They followed that up with a 7-0 victory over Russia, but Finland become the first team to score on the U.S., taking a 1-0 lead on a wrist shot by Susanna Tapani.
Knight tied it later in the first period when she was able to stuff home a loose puck while the Americans had a 5-on-3 advantage.
Kendall Coyne put the U.S. ahead with a goal 3:33 into the second, and Knight made it a two-goal lead. Finland pulled within one when Hiirikoski scored in the final minute of the period, and Michelle Karvinen tied it with 10:56 left in the third.
The first three goals by the U.S. came on the power play. Finland was whistled for five penalties in the second period alone.
”Special teams – you love `em, you hate `em sometimes. They can screw up the flow of the game,” Duggan said.
”You’ve got to capitalize on special teams, obviously, so I think we’ve had a few power-play goals through the tournament, so I’m really happy with that. We’ve got a lot of players that are playing in a ton of different roles.”
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister