ncaa-d1 flag | February 8, 2014

Team USA opens pool play with victory against Finland

SOCHI, Russia -- A new format was supposed to make the Olympic women's hockey tournament more competitive after Vancouver, when then-IOC president Jacques Rogge hinted that the sport could be kicked out of the Winter Games.

One day into the Sochi Games and the winners look the same.

The United States won its opener at the Shayba Arena on Saturday despite changes that were supposed to bring some of the marquee matchups into the round-robin. The Americans beat Finland 3-1 and Canada beat Switzerland 5-0, showing that the North American dominance of the sport is still supreme.

Team USA faced Finland, the 2010 bronze medalist, in the Sochi opener instead of China, which it beat 12-1 to start the Vancouver Games. Finnish goalie Noora Raty, a two-time NCAA champion at Minnesota, gave up Hilary Knight's goal 53 seconds into the game but stopped 40 shots to keep it close from there.

Raty is one of ten Finnish players to have competed in NCAA hockey, in addition to the seven members of Team USA currently enrolled at NCAA institutions.

Jesse Vetter stopped 14 shots for the Americans. Kelli Stack and Boston College's Alex Carpenter also scored for the Americans, each getting a fortunate bounce on what Finnish coach Mika Pieniniemi called "an 'oops' goal."

"We talk a lot about how there are no snapshots on the scorecard," Harvard and Team USA head coach Katey Stone said. "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."

Other Notes:

Colorado's Julia Marino became the first from her home country of Paraguy to compete in any Olympic Winter Games. The slopestyle skier marched in Friday's Opening Ceremony as her country's flagbearer. ... Dartmouth student Hannah Kearney picked up Team USA's second medal of the Games on Saturday night, taking bronze in the women's moguls. Kearney was the reigning Olympic champion, earning gold in Vancouver in 2010.