SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Although many expect that the United States women’s hockey team will end up taking on Canada in the gold medal game in Sochi, the team will begin the Winter Olympics with another formidable opponent -- Finland.
Finland defeated the U.S. in the Four Nations Cup in November and the Americans will be looking to take their revenge when the teams face off on Saturday.
"I don’t see a downside, personally," head coach Katey Stone told ESPN. "It’s a world-class event, and we want to be challenged as much as we can."
The Finnish team is anchored by goaltender Noora Raty. The 24-year-old ended her career at the University of Minnesota with an undefeated 41-win season and a national championship. During the Four Nations final in Lake Placid, Raty made 58 saves to help lead Finland to a 3-1 victory.
“She's good technically, you can't really beat her on the first shot," said Raty's collegiate teammate, Amanda Kessel. "You need to play for deflections and rebounds, otherwise she's just going to frustrate you all night."
When U.S. goaltender Jessie Vetter hits the ice, it will be with a partially modified mask. The U.S. Olympic Committee forced Vetter to change her mask and remove the words “We The People” from it because the design violated international rules.
No matter what happens on Saturday, the Americans will get their shot at Canada on Wednesday. The two countries have squared off in group play in the last two world championships, an occurrence that has "only enhanced the overall product," according to Stone.
[ESPN] [Sports Illustrated]