SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The American shots came in rapid succession: 59 of them in all when Finnish goalie Noora Raty faced the United States at the home of the "Miracle on Ice."
She stopped all but one.
In leading Finland to a win last fall at the Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid, Raty gave her country a rare victory over the Americans and reminded the women's hockey world that no matter the history, no matter the rankings, no matter if it's men or women wearing the skates, a strong goalie can make all the difference.
"It's the same for all goalies," Raty said this week after practice at the Shayba Ice Arena. "If you don't play well, your team doesn't have a chance to win."
The United States and Canada have dominated women's international hockey so thoroughly for so long that a loss to any other team is shocking. But for even longer, hockey has been a sport that relies greatly on goaltending.
Like a baseball pitcher with pinpoint control or an NFL quarterback with a rocket arm, a goaltender on a hot streak can turn an also-ran into a contender.
In Sochi, Raty might just be that goalie and she could prove it Saturday when Finland takes on the United States on the opening day of the women's Olympic tournament.
"She's one of the best goaltenders in the world," said American defenseman Megan Bozek, a roommate and teammate of Raty's at the University of Minnesota. "It's hard to score on her, but I think it makes it that much sweeter when you do get that goal."
In the day's other game, three-time defending Olympic gold medalist Canada will play the fourth-seeded team, Switzerland.
Raty may only be 24, but she has been on her national team since she was 15 and already has two Olympics behind her.
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