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Wins for North American favourites in ice hockey openers

The USA beat Finland 3-1 in the opening game of the Sochi Olympic women's hockey tournament on Saturday. Hilary Knight scored after just 53 seconds, while Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter scored second period goals for the Americans, who out-shot the Finns 43-15 in front of a crowd of 4,135 at the Shayba Arena.

“We wanted to get some early shots,” said Knight. “We found a way and that was great for our confidence.”

Three months earlier Finland had defeated the Americans by the same score at the Four Nations Cup a result that was hailed as “a Miracle on Ice”, but Saturday’s contest saw the US women very much in control.

“It's not easy playing a team like Finland,” said US goaltender Jessie Vetter. “They are tough, with a goaltender who keeps them in the game. I'm just happy we won the opening match.”

Knight, who was the best player on the ice for the USA, opened the scoring by picking up a loose puck just seconds into the contest. She raced in alone to beat Finnish goaltender Noora Raty with a shot to the stick side.

Stack and Carpenter notched second-period goals on the powerplay. Stack took a puck off her chest and used the lower shaft of her stick to bat it out of the air and into the net.

Susanna Tapani scored the lone goal on the powerplay for Finland late on, one-timing a pass across the crease from team-mate Michelle Karvinen.

The USA are favourites to win the gold medal in Sochi, having defeated the three-time defending Olympic champions Canada in four straight matches in a pre-Games exhibition series.

Champion display from Canada

The reigning champions got their title defence off to a start later the same day, putting in a dominant performance against Switzerland, defeating the world’s third ranked team 5-0.

The Canadians bombarded Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling with 69 shots, while her counterpart at the other end, Charline Labonte earned the 14-save shutout.

Hayley Wickenheiser, who carried the flag for Canada in the Opening Ceremony, scored a short-handed goal with Jocelyne Larocque, Tara Watchorn, Marie-Philip Poulin and Rebecca Johnston also scoring.

“After the Opening Ceremony and all the build-up, I think it was a really good day for all of us to get on the ice and get to the reason why we're here which is playing hockey,” said Canadian head coach Kevin Dineen.

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