Defenseman Emily Pfalzer scored a hat trick and added an assist for a four-point night as the U.S. women’s ice hockey team opened Four Nations Cup play with an 8-2 victory over Finland on Tuesday at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Florida.
Pfalzer scored two goals in the first period — both off assists from captain and two-time Olympian Meghan Duggan — and completed her hat trick in the third period as Team USA set up a sold-out Wednesday evening showdown with archrival Canada.
U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney made 11 saves as Team USA outshot Finland 32-13.
Two-time Olympian Hilary Knight scored on a power play off an assist from 2014 Olympian Kendall Coyne at 3:52 into the game to open the scoring gates for the four-time defending world champions.
Amanda Kessel, a 2014 Olympian, made it 2-0 near the midway point of the opening period with an even-strength goal off an assist from Dani Cameranesi.
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Defenseman Cayla Barnes, just 18 and added to the team last week, scored her first 2017 goal for Team USA on the power play with just 14 seconds left in the opening period from low in the slot for a commanding 5-0 lead going into the first intermission.
Kelly Pannek added a second-period goal, and Cameranesi and Pfalzer added goals in the third to account for the U.S. scoring.
In the opening game of the tournament, Sweden held Canada scoreless in the first 10 minutes of the game before the Canadians exploded for a 9-0 win in the afternoon game behind a hat trick and assist from Jennifer Wakefield.
Team USA takes on Canada 7 p.m. ET Wednesday in their third meeting ahead of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. The U.S. and Canada have split their games in October with Team USA winning 5-2 in Canada, and Canada winning 5-1 in Boston.
Finland and Sweden meet in the 3:30 p.m. first game on Wednesday.
After a day off on Thursday, action in the round-robin portion concludes on Friday when Canada skates against Finland at 3 p.m. followed by Sweden-Team USA at 6:30 p.m.
The bronze-medal game takes place 12 p.m. Sunday in Tampa, followed by the gold-medal game at 3:30 p.m.
Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.