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U.S. whips Sweden, will face powerful Canada in final

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Associated Press
February 23, 2010
— Angela Ruggiero launched a wrist shot over Kim Martin’s too-late glove and gratefully raised her hands to the roof, finally certain her U.S. women’s hockey team wouldn’t allow another Swedish surprise at the Olympics.

Monique Lamoureux scored three goals, Cottage Grove native Jessie Vetter made 11 saves and the Americans rolled into the gold-medal match with a 9-1 semifinal victory over Sweden on Monday.


Caitlin Cahow, Karen Thatcher and Kelli Stack each had a goal and an assist as the Americans avenged their 2006 semifinal shootout loss to Sweden, the biggest upset in Olympic history and a sore spot for the six returning members of that bronze-medal team.


“It was the same team, same semifinal game, but the similarities end there,” said Ruggiero, the four-time Olympian. “Everyone knows. No one was saying, ‘Remember, remember.’ ”


After outscoring their first four opponents by a combined 40-2, the Americans will face Canada, which advanced with a 5-0 win over Finland.


Meghan Agosta set an Olympics record with her ninth goal and Canada upped its margin of victory for the tournament to 46-2.


Fittingly, the sport’s two best teams will play for gold.


“Now, it’s really exciting,” Vetter said. “We made it to the point we really wanted to. I think we’re ready for the gold-medal game.”


The Americans jumped out to another 2-0 lead at Canada Hockey Place, just as they did in Turin. That’s when Ruggiero skated in on Martin and beat the standout Swedish goalie cleanly, scoring on exactly the type of shot Martin repeatedly stopped with style four years ago.


“Obviously, what happened in 2006 was disappointing to everybody with USA Hockey,” U.S. coach Mark Johnson said. “We’ve talked about when you get the opportunity, to be ready. Today was a big hurdle to get across.”


The rematch was a comprehensive thrashing of the Swedes and Martin, who came nowhere close to her 37-save performance in Turin. She again made 37 saves—the exact number she made four years ago—but the ones that got away were more numerous and more glaring.


“To beat them, you need the lucky bounces and excellent goaltending,” Sweden coach Peter Elander said. “Today we didn’t get any lucky bounces, and we let in some soft goals.”


Vetter soundly outplayed Martin, who let in a few stoppable goals and made at least one accidental save off her mask. The Americans’ superior offense took care of the rest, jumping to a 4-0 lead early in the second period on consecutive goals by Ruggiero and Cahow before icing it with three goals on their first six shots in the third period, silencing a large Canadian crowd cheering mostly for the Swedes.


If the Americans needed any extra motivation, they got it Sunday night in the same rink. Much of the roster attended the U.S. men’s team’s victory over Canada.


“I feel we’ve yet to play our best game,” said Lamoureux, whose twin sister,


Jocelyne, had two assists. “It’s hopefully coming Thursday.”


Sweden’s win in Turin was the first loss by a North American team in a major women’s hockey tournament except to each other. Martin was the star, but she missed much of last year at Minnesota Duluth with a knee injury, only recently returning to competition.


Except for the symmetry of another semifinal meeting, there was little reason to expect a repeat: The U.S. team hadn’t lost to Sweden in five international meetings since Turin, outscoring the Swedes 30-2 before beating them three more times in exhibitions leading up to Vancouver.


And on the 30th anniversary of the U.S. men’s Miracle on Ice victory over the Soviet Union in Lake Placid, Johnson watched his team prevent any chance of a repeat of that minor miracle in Turin.


The Americans scored less than 712 minutes into a well-played first period. Moments after Vetter stopped Pernilla Winberg on a point-blank shot, Jenny Potter hit Lamoureux in stride with a long pass, and the 20-year-old beat Martin for her second goal of the Olympics. Meghan Duggan then popped home a rebound during a power play 69 seconds later.


Just 21/2 minutes after Ruggiero’s goal in her record 250th game with the U.S. team, Martin clumsily missed catching a soft shot by Cahow, letting it float behind her.


Sweden managed a power play goal midway through the period when Winberg adroitly backhanded a puck out of mid-air past Vetter, but Thatcher popped home a rebound goal 4 minutes later.


Lamoureux completed her hat trick on a power play goal with 2:41 to play during the Americans’ four-goal third period.


After playing the preliminary round at UBC Thunderbird Arena, both teams waited through a long weekend for a chance to play at the bigger hockey venue in Vancouver. The Americans hadn’t played since Thursday, while Sweden had four straight days without a game in a schedule criticized by coaches and some players.



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