Danielle Cameranesi #24 celebrates her goal with teammate Maddie Rooney #35 against Finland in the women's ice hockey semifinals at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 19, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
UPDATE: Canada won its semifinal, 5-0, over Olympic Athletes from Russia Monday night and will face Team USA for Olympic gold. This story has been updated to reflect that.
GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Bring on Canada.
The U.S. women’s ice hockey team is in the gold-medal game at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 and facing a familiar foe.
“This team’s ready,” said captain Meghan Duggan. “This team’s full of passion and energy (and) excitement. We’ve worked really hard this tournament, the last four years and our entire lives to put ourselves in a position to go after a gold medal.”
But getting there meant not getting ahead of themselves.
Even before the Games began, Team USA declared it wasn’t looking past Finland, and that proved true twice in the last nine days.
First Team USA faced – and defeated – Finland in the first game of pool play. And there was Finland again Monday in the semifinals, the final obstacle between Team USA and Thursday’s gold-medal game.
Led by Dani Cameranesi with two goals and an assist, Team USA prevailed 5-0 in this latest chapter of wins against Finns, remaining undefeated and untied against Finland in all eight of their Olympic meetings going back to the sport’s Games debut in 1998. In international play, Team USA is 22-0-0-1-1 against Finland.
“What I loved about today’s performance is our preparation,” said Team USA coach Robb Stauber, “because you had to have a gold-medal mentality today. There’s no way you can go out there and do what we did if your foot’s not on the gas. We did things right from start to finish.”
Team USA hasn’t won the gold medal since Nagano, taking home three silvers and a bronze from 2002 to 2014. It will play in its fifth Olympic final against Canada, which defeated Olympic Athletes from Russia 5-0 in the other semifinal. Team USA's archrival from north of the border will be going for its fifth straight Olympic gold medal.
Four years ago in Sochi, Team USA led 2-0 but the Canadians came back to win 3-2 in overtime.
“It’s a little different than other sports,” said Monique Lamoureux-Morando. “You get a silver medal, but you had to lose the gold to get it. I don’t think the sting of that ever really goes away. Even if we win a gold medal, it’s not going to take away the fact that we lost in Sochi, but I think it’s given us all a lot of motivation, made us look ourselves in the mirror and figure out what we need to be better at as individuals and as a team. And I think we’ve taken those steps.”
Six of the Team USA players have won two silver medals – which means they’ve lost two golds.
“I never want a teammate to have to feel the heartbreak that some of us have felt in Sochi and in Vancouver,” Lamoureux-Morando said. “So we’re gong to do whatever we need to do to win the game. We get a medal, but we don’t know what color it is yet.”
Playing for the first time in Gangneung Hockey Centre on Monday, Team USA was even more dominant against Finland than it had been in the 3-1 victory on Feb. 11.
Just 2:25 into the game, Gigi Marvin, who played collegiately for the University of Minnesota scored from the slot. She was assisted by Duggan, who played for the University of Wisconsin, and Amanda Pelkey, who played for the University of Vermont, proving the diversity of the Team USA feeder system.
With 1:22 left in the first period, Cameranesi, who also played at Minnesota, intercepted a pass and scored on a wrist shot to the top corner of the net to make it 2-0.
Team USA added two goals in the second period in a 34-second span. With 2 seconds left in a 5-on-3 opportunity, Team USA finally capitalized after multiple shots on goal. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, formerly of the University of North Dakota, scored from the face-off circle assisted by Kelly Pannek and Cameranesi at the 13:21 mark.
Then Hilary Knight, who starred for the University of Wisconsin, made it 4-0, assisted by Sidney Morin and Kendall Coyne.
Only 45 seconds into the third period, Cameranesi scored again, this time assisted by Amanda Kessel and Hannah Brandt, her “red line” teammates.
The crowd, which included seven men in Uncle Sam top hats and bowties and Olympic superfan Leslie Jones, of “Saturday Night Live” fame, chanted “U-S-A, U-S-A” and bounced along to Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls).”
Team USA had 11 shots on goal compared to two for Finland in the first period, then increased the pressure with 18 in the second while Finland had seven. The final tally was 38-14, with Maddie Rooney in goal for Team USA. “To follow up on the leaders of the 1998 team, it would mean everything to us,” Rooney said.
She had 23 saves in the Olympic opener against Finland.
“From the get go, we’ve handled pressure pretty well,” said Pelkey. “Every team that comes to the Olympics has pressure on them, whether you’re the last seed or first seed. I think it’s a huge world stage and everyone wants to perform at their best.”
Canada has had the upper hand against Team USA recently, winning four straight going into the 2018 Games, and then 2-1 four days ago.
“Definitely the rivalry has been there since I think I was born,” said Cameranesi, who is 22. “I think we played really well (against Canada last time). A few bounces didn’t go our way. We hit a few posts, so we’re just making sure we get ourselves in those positions again and just working hard and doing our best to hopefully get a few more Grade A opportunities.”
Lamoureux-Morando said that going into Sochi, Team USA had a four-game winning streak against Canada, then lost both games in the Olympics.
“So it really does not matter what happened in November and December,” she said. “It’s a one-and-done game.”
For live video and highlights, head to the networks of NBC and NBCOlympics.com.