CALGARY, Alberta – Alex Carpenter (North Reading, Mass.) netted the game-winning goal and Nicole Hensley (Lakewood, Colo.) recorded a shutout as the U.S. (5-0-0-1) skated to a 3-0 victory over Finland in the semifinals of the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship.
The U.S. will compete in its 20th gold-medal game at the IIHF WWC tomorrow (Aug. 31) at 7:30 p.m. ET. Team USA will face the winner of the other semifinal matchup between Canada and Switzerland.
“I’m really happy for our team,” said Joel Johnson (White Bear Lake, Minn.), head coach of the 2021 U.S. Women’s National Team. “We knew we had to come out hard and fast and take away any chances for Finland and I think we did just that. I was really impressed by how our team controlled the tempo against a skilled team like Finland. We’re going to enjoy this win, but we’ve got one more game to play.”
The U.S. controlled possession early as Grace Zumwinkle (Excelsior, Minn.) nearly made it a 1-0 game off a rebound opportunity. Shortly after, Carpenter got a good look on net, but Finnish netminder Anni Keisala was able to stop and freeze the puck. Finland wouldn’t record its first shot until 6:30 into the frame with Hensley making the save. Although Finland only added three more shots throughout the period, the pressure was felt back-and-forth. Hensley came up with a big save on the penalty kill with 1:39 to go to keep the game scoreless after 20 minutes.
Carpenter put the U.S. on the board 3:23 into the middle stanza after she redirected a Lee Stecklein (Roseville, Minn.) blast from the point. Team USA made it a two-goal game with 4:43 to go as Megan Keller (Farmington Hills, Mich.) made a stretch pass across the neutral zone to find Abbey Murphy (Evergreen Park, Ill.). Murphy skated around a Finnish defender and put one past Keisala to extend the lead. Similar to the first period, the U.S. made it difficult for Finland to control the puck and get anything moving as Finland recorded its first shot of the second 17:03 into the period.
The third period was fairly evenly matched with offensive opportunities for both squads. With less than eight minutes to play, Finland eyed its first goal of the game but Hensley tracked the puck to keep the U.S. lead at two.
Finland skated with an empty net with 7:22 to play in the game in an effort to find the back of the net and get offense going. A few good looks were turned away by Hensley and then Kendall Coyne Schofield (Palos Heights, Ill.) took advantage of the empty net to seal the game for the U.S., 3-0, with 2:53 to go.
Hensley started in net for the U.S., stopping 14 shots for her second shutout of the tournament.
Tomorrow’s gold-medal game will be televised live in the United States on NHL Network.
NOTES: Carpenter was named U.S. Player of the Game … The U.S. outshot Finland, 33-14 … Team USA was 0-2 on the power play, while Finland was 0-4 … The U.S. is now 15-1-1 (W-L-T) all-time in the WWC semifinals … The IIHF announced the three best players for the U.S., which included Hilary Knight (Sun Valley, Idaho), Brianna Decker (Dousman, Wis.) and Stecklein ... For more information about the tournament, click here.