Women’s Hockey Worlds: U.S. looks like a new team thanks to bench utilization

·3 min read
US hockey player Kendall Coyne shoots the puck
US hockey player Kendall Coyne shoots the puck

In its first real test of the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship, the U.S. women’s hockey team passed with flying colors. Team USA defeated Finland, 6-1, in Saturday’s group A matchup at Kvik Hockey Arena in Herning, Denmark.

Ohio State alum Jincy Dunne put the U.S. on the board six minutes into the game, marking the 25-year-old’s first senior national team goal (video embedded below.)

“For me, it was a long time coming,” Dunne told On Her Turf. “That was a pretty sweet moment. I’m not going to forget that.”

Finland, the perennial bronze-medal favorite, entered Saturday’s game with a depleted lineup. Petra Nieminen, the team’s leading scorer at 2021 Worlds, was missing due to a one-game suspension — the result of a major penalty she received during Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Canada. Five-time world medalist Susanna Tapani was also out — for personal reasons — but a representative for the Finnish team said she is expected back for the next group play game.

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The U.S. power play — a weak point at both 2021 Worlds and the 2022 Winter Olympics — showed signs of improvement on Saturday, with Team USA recording two power play goals in the second period. Off a shot from Cayla Barnes, Abby Roque made it 2-0 with a beautiful tip to put the puck past Finnish goalie Anni Keisala (video embedded below). Keisala finished the day with 66 saves in net.

Then, after a goal from Lacey Eden was called back (high stick), Amanda Kessel made it up with a nice backdoor goal (video embedded below).

Finland started the third period on a strong note thanks to a goal from Ella Viitasuo, but just two minutes later, Kessel again responded to make it 4-1. Hannah Bilka recorded an empty net goal (5-1), before Hannah Brandt put the finishing touches on the 6-1 win.

In total, 10 American players recorded at least one point in the win. Maddie Rooney played all 60 minutes in goal for the U.S., recording 15 saves.

“I thought it was just a very thorough effort across the board by our ladies,” U.S. head coach John Wroblewski told On Her Turf. “We faced a very good goaltender today – she played tremendous – but we put a lot of good bids there.”

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After two games, the biggest takeaway for the U.S. is that every member of the roster can play a role when given the opportunity (and minutes) — a change that can be attributed to Wroblewski taking over as head coach following the Olympics.

“Everybody has a role on the team. Having superstars doesn’t help unless you have momentum players as well,” he said.

“My experience in international hockey is that you’re hopefully gonna have a different hero every night… we’re going to utilize the bench in every way we can and hopefully we’ll continue to get those outstanding performances.”

“We trust every person on the ice,” added U.S. alternate captain Lee Stecklein. “There’s a predictability to what we’re gonna do out there and … that makes for a really fun game.”

The U.S. women’s hockey team will face off next against Switzerland (Monday, 1pm ET, NHL Network).

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Women’s Hockey Worlds: U.S. looks like a new team thanks to bench utilization originally appeared on NBCSports.com