U.S. women will prepare the same for Swedes in semifinals

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 16, 2014 - 8:57 AM

After beating the Finns, Sweden is in underdog role again.

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USA forward Amanda Kessel (28) gathers the puck, as USA forward Brianna Decker (14) ties up Switzerland forward Stefanie Marty (9), during the first period in a women's hockey game at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Monday, February 10, 2014.

Photo: Chuck Myers, Mct - Mct

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– The closest thing women’s hockey has to a “Miracle on Ice’’ moment happened in 2006, in the semifinals of the Turin Olympics. In this version, the U.S. played the role of the fearsome superpower, while Sweden took on the part of the plucky underdog.

Sweden upset the Americans 3-2 in a shootout, keeping the U.S. out of the gold-medal game for the only time in Olympic history. So don’t expect the U.S. to underestimate the Swedes when they meet again Monday in the semifinals of the Sochi Olympics at Shayba Arena. Sweden earned a place in the semifinals with another big upset, beating Finland 4-2 on Saturday.

Canada, winner of the past three Olympic gold medals, will play Switzerland in Monday’s other semifinal. The Swiss defeated Russia 2-0 in Saturday’s quarterfinals to advance to the semis for the first time.

“I don’t know if I’m surprised [by Sweden’s victory] because these games are full of pressure,’’ U.S. coach Katey Stone said. “I applaud Sweden’s guts, because they just stayed after it. Our preparation will stay the same.’’

Finland, which upset the U.S. 3-1 in the Four Nations tournament last November, had not lost to a European team this season and was the favorite for Olympic bronze behind the U.S. and Canada. The Finns led 1-0 after two periods, but Sweden tied it only 48 seconds into the third on a shot that deflected off a Finnish player’s stick and past goaltender Noora Raty. Emma Eliasson’s slapshot from the blue line put Sweden ahead 3-2 at 15:45 of the third, and the Swedes added an empty-net goal in the final seconds.

Raty, who won two NCAA titles with the Gophers, retired from women’s hockey after the game, though she said she will try to play for a men’s team in Finland.

Canada resumed practice Saturday after taking two days off. The players rested, attended other events and enjoyed walking around Olympic Park. The Canadians defeated Switzerland 5-0 in the preliminary round and now have an 18-game winning streak in the Olympics dating to 1998.

Against Russia, the Swiss again got great goaltending from Florence Schelling, who played U.S. college hockey at Northeastern University. Schelling stopped all 41 of Russia’s shots. In four games in Sochi, she has faced 197 shots — by far the most of any goalie in the tournament — and has stopped 179 for a .909 save percentage.

“We have waited a long time for a win like this,’’ Switzerland coach Rene Kammerer said. “I hope people know how dangerous we are now.’’

In the semifinals, the U.S. could be without four-time Olympian Julie Chu, who injured her left arm when she collided with a teammate in practice Saturday. Stone did not know immediately whether the injury was serious.

Russia’s coach, Mikhail Chekanov, was bracing for an uproar over his team’s loss. The bronze medalists at the 2013 world championships, Russia had gained steam heading into the Olympics, and a hockey-mad country was counting on a medal in Sochi. The Russians went 3-0 to win Group B, but Chekanov said they were doomed in the quarterfinal by poor skating and a lack of focus.

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