SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The puck bounced off Kelli Stack's chest, and before it could flutter back to the ice she bunted it out of the air, past Finland goalie Noora Raty and into the net.
"An 'oops' goal," Finnish coach Mika Pieniniemi called it.
And it was just what the Americans needed.
Hilary Knight scored 53 seconds into the game and assisted on Alex Carpenter's second-period goal as the United States turned back third-seeded Finland 3-1 to open the women's hockey tournament Saturday at the Sochi Olympics. Jesse Vetter stopped 14 shots for the Americans, who play Switzerland on Monday for a chance to clinch a spot in the semifinals.
Canada was scheduled to play Switzerland later in the day in the other opener for Group A, which includes all of the medal favorites. The Americans and Canadians are overwhelming favorites to reach the gold medal game, and Finland is expected to repeat for the bronze.
That's mostly thanks to Raty, a two-time NCAA champion who went 41-0 at Minnesota in her senior year and made 58 saves to upset the Americans in a tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y., in November. But the three-time Olympian was beaten on the first shot of the Sochi Olympics when a teammate gave the puck away at the blue line and Knight went in all alone.
"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,"