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February 08. 2014 8:21PM

Knight lifts U.S. women to opening hockey win


Hilary Knight of the U.S. celebrates her goal against Finland with teammate Amanda Kessel during their women's preliminary round hockey game at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. (REUTERS/Grigory Dukor)

SOCHI, Russia - It took less than a minute for Hilary Knight to announce her presence in Sochi.

The veteran forward who formerly lived in Hanover, N.H., scored 53 seconds into Team USA's inaugural 2014 Olympics hockey game, helping teammates shake off pre-tourney jitters and setting a tone of dominance that players hope to maintain through the gold-medal game.

"It's a nice piece of history to have for myself," Knight said.

Knight also had an assist for teammate Alex Carpenter and led the team in shots on goal as USA beat Finland 3-1.

She came out early, snagging a loose puck and beating a path toward the Finland net.

"Our eyes lit up," recalled forward Kelli Stack. "She just flared it low-blocker. I think the puck was in the net before Noora (Raty, the Finland goalie) even moved."

The goal wasn't unexpected from Knight, a veteran forward for the U.S. women's hockey team who played four years ago in Vancouver. In all, Knight had eight shots on goal, more than any other player.

"She had an unbelievable year, and I think she's going to have a great tournament," said USA goalie Jessie Vetter.

It was Knight's first shot that set the tone, and it came against one of the world's top goalies. "It was a nightmare start for me and my team, but we got over it real quick," said Raty, of Finland. Her coach, Mika Pieniniemi, called the goal "unlucky."

"She has probably the best shot in women's hockey. She shoots like a guy," Stack said. "It's unbelievable to have someone on the team who can pretty much score at will for us."

USA Coach Katey Stone, who played at the University of New Hampshire, said the goal helped "take the edge off the anxiety" for the team. The United States lost to Finland 3-1 in Lake Placid, N.Y., in November.

Finland's Mira Jalosuo wants a rematch in the semifinals. "I feel confident we can beat them," she said.


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