US women open Four Nations defense with 5-1 win over Finland

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              United States players celebrate a goal against Finland during the second period of a Four Nations Cup women's ice hockey game in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press via AP)
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SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (AP) — Brianna Decker, Hilary Knight and Dani Cameranesi each had a goal and an assist to help the U.S. women’s hockey team beat Finland 5-1 on Tuesday to open its defense of the Four Nations Cup.

It was the first game for the Americans since topping Canada 3-2 in a shootout to win Olympic gold in February. The U.S. had lost in four straight gold medal games against Canada since winning the first Olympic women’s hockey tournament in 1998.

Decker claims she hasn’t experienced the usual post-Olympic hangover, largely because the desire for more international success kept her motivated.

“It took us 20 years to finally reach that moment and feel that way,” the 27-year-old said. “There was a point in the summer where, it wasn’t a letdown, it was ‘Hey, it’s time to go, ramp it back up, prep for the season and be ready to go come fall.

“They always say once you’re on top, it’s harder to defend than it is to get to the top.”

Sarah Brodt and Cayla Barnes also scored for the U.S., and Maddie Rooney made nine saves. Rooney was the winning goaltender in the Olympic final in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Veteran netminder Noora Raty was much busier, stopping 44 of 49 shots in the loss. Emma Nuutinen scored for Finland.

Trailing 1-0 despite outshooting the Finns 9-3 in the first period, the U.S. scored five unanswered goals in the second, starting with Decker’s just 10 seconds in.

“This was a good first game for us,” defender Kacey Bellamy said. “I think the first period was a little sloppy, but we’re getting used to new systems and playing with a new group of players. I think we settled in coming into the second period and third.”

The U.S. has won the Four Nations tournament three straight years. This year’s roster features 16 members of the 2018 Olympic team.

In the late game, Melodie Daoust scored twice in Canada’s 6-1 win over Sweden.

Sarah Fillier scored in her national-team debut and Laura Stacey scored short-handed for the host country at the SaskTel Centre.

Captain Marie-Philip Poulin and Laura Fortino rounded out the scoring for Canada.

Rebecca Johnson assisted on three goals. Goaltender Shannon Szabados stopped 17 of 18 shots for the win.

Emma Nordin scored a power-play goal for Sweden in the third period. Goaltender Lovisa Selander, 22, stopped 46 of 52 shots in her first start for her country.