BEIJING – Kendall Coyne Schofield and Alex Carpenter each scored twice, and the U.S. women’s hockey team began the defense of its Olympic title with a 5-2 win over Finland on Thursday in a game overshadowed by an injury to American forward Brianna Decker.
The assistant captain and three-time Olympian yelped out in pain after being tripped from behind by Finland’s Ronja Savolainen midway through the first period. Decker was unable to place any weight on her left leg and was taken off on a stretcher. USA Hockey said the 31-year-old Decker had a lower body injury and was being evaluated at the arena.
Decker later was on crutches next to the bench and was hugged by teammates as they left the ice.
Decker’s injury represents a potentially significant blow to the Americans, who are trying to become the first U.S. team to win back-to-back gold medals. The versatile forward has been a national team staple for 11 years.
Decker’s injury was the second to a key player during the tournament’s opening day at the Beijing Games. Canadian forward Melodie Daoust did not return after being checked hard into the boards by Sarah Foster in Canada’s 12-1 rout of Switzerland.
Decker was hurt when Savolainen wrapped her leg around the American while pulling her down. There was no penalty called.
Decker’s veteran teammates responded by scoring twice in the next 3 1/2 minutes in the Group A matchup.
Amanda Kessel opened the scoring by driving to the front of the net and stuffing the puck in at the 10:37 mark of the first, 65 seconds after Decker was hurt. Carpenter then snapped in a shot from the left circle for a power-play goal after being set up by Kelly Pannek’s cross-ice pass.
Schofield, the team captain, scored twice in 64 seconds to put the Americans up 4-0 by the 6:36 mark of the second period.
Maddie Rooney stopped 10 shots in just her second game since an injury forced her to miss the world championships in August.
Finland had little response to the Americans’ push after Decker was hurt. The Finns managed just one shot over the remainder of the first period. They were outshot 19-2 in the second and 52-12 overall.
Susanna Tapani scored a power-play goal 3:15 into the third, and Anni Keisala made 47 saves for Finland, which won bronze at the 2018 Games.
Tapani’s second goal came with 2:20 remaining, although it wasn’t awarded until a video review was conducted after time ran out. The teams were ready to depart to their locker rooms before they had to play the final 2:20 over again.
The Americans improved to 9-0 against Finland in Olympic play. The U.S. has Friday off before facing Russia on Saturday.
In other games, Natalie Spooner had two goals and three assists and Claire Thompson had a goal and four assists in Canada’s win over the Swiss in Group A.
“That’s quite the way to make an entrance into the Olympics,” Spooner said.
Sarah Fillier scored the first two goals and the Canadians led 8-0 through two periods. Canada is the reigning world champion after a 3-2 overtime win over the U.S. in August ended the Americans’ five-tournament gold-medal run.
In Group B, Michaela Pejzlova scored on a breakaway with 13:33 left in the third period, and the Czech Republic capped its women’s hockey Olympic debut with a 3-1 win over host China.
Tereza Radova became her nation’s first woman to score in the Olympics by redirecting defender Aneta Tejralova’s pass to open the scoring 10:38 into a game the Czech Republic never trailed. Denisa Krizova also scored and Klara Peslarova stopped 13 shots in a Group B preliminary round game.
China was outshot 36-14 in its first Olympic appearance since finishing seventh of eight teams in 2010. Mi Le scored and Canadian-born goalie Tiya Chen stopped 33 shots for a Chinese national team made up of mostly members of the Russian-based Women’s Hockey League’s Vanke Rays.
With the Czech Republic up 2-1, Pejzlova secured the win by beating Chen through the legs after being set up by a blue-line-to-blue-line pass from Pavlina Horalkova.
Fans — each with a blue-colored Olympic flag to wave — were seated socially distanced in two corners of the lower level of Wukesong Sports Centre. There were also about two dozen male and female cheerleaders who lined the rail above the first level. The cheerleaders wore dark blue jerseys with “Ice Hockey” printed on them, and performed a dance to techno music before the start of each game and during the intermissions.
In another Group B game, Rui Ukita capitalized on a turnover to score the go-ahead goal on a breakaway 4:03 into the third period in Japan’s 3-1 victory over Sweden.
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