- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - The United States and Canada clinched spots in the Olympic women’s hockey semifinals Monday, remaining unbeaten through their first two games of pool play.

And Finland cemented its standing as the favorite to win the bronze medal.

The U.S. beat Switzerland 9-0 - the biggest hockey blowout so far in the Sochi Games. Then Canada needed 50 minutes to beat Finland goalie Noora Raty, a two-time NCAA champion at Minnesota.

“I’ve never seen them celebrate as much as they celebrated that first goal,” Raty said after Canada won 3-0. “That showed they were probably getting frustrated. We have never beaten Canada in our history, but this showed we are maybe closing the gap.”

Megan Agosta scored on a power play with 10:33 left in the third period, and Jayna Hefford and Rebecca Johnston added insurance goals for Canada. The two North American countries - the only ones ever to have won an Olympic or world championship gold medal - will play each other in the round-robin finale on Wednesday.

Raty made 39 saves for Finland but Agosta’s score was followed by a Hefford goal to make it 2-0 about three minutes later. Canada took a 3-0 lead when Marie-Philip Poulin brought the puck in on a 2-on-1 and passed it to Johnston just outside the crease for the easy tip-in.

“We played really well for 50 minutes. We were not really troubled. Then we ran out of gas,” said Raty, who made 58 saves to beat the Americans in a tournament in November but lost to them 3-1 in the Olympic opener. “When you play against Canada and the U.S., we have to play for 60 minutes and you can’t make any mistakes.”

The Finns play their preliminary round finale on Wednesday against Switzerland, which was not competitive in either game against the North Americans, getting outscored 14-0.

Monique Lamoureux, Brianna Decker and Amanda Kessel scored within 55 seconds of each other in the first period to turn a scoreless tie into a blowout. It was the quickest three-goal sequence in Olympic history, with the last two coming just eight seconds apart.

Kessel also had an assist on Kendall Coyne’s goal and another in the first period. Asked by a reporter to describe her goals, Kessel said: “I can’t really remember them all.”

Lamoureux and Coyne also scored twice for the Americans, and Molly Schaus made 10 saves in her Sochi debut.

Hilary Knight and Alex Carpenter also scored for the United States, which led 5-0 after one period and outshot the Swiss 53-10. Florence Schelling, who played at Northeastern, made 44 saves for Switzerland against Schaus, of Boston College, on the morning of the Beanpot finals where their schools will play for the men’s hockey bragging rights of Boston.

“I’ve been watching them do that all year,” said Schaus, who was the backup for the first game and didn’t see much action in this one, either.


Follow Jimmy Golen on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/jgolen.

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