Originally created 02/15/02

U.S. women earn spot in medal round



PROVO, Utah -- The gloves came off, the hats came off, and another rout was on.

Cammi Granato had her first Olympic hat trick Thursday as the U.S. women's hockey team turned back a physical challenge and beat China 12-1 to clinch a berth in the medal round.

"I expected the Chinese to put up as much resistance as they could," coach Ben Smith said. "Even though we scored a lot of goals, it didn't seem like they came easily because of the tenacity of their coverage and the excellence of their goalkeeper."

The win put the United States (2-0) into the medal round along with Finland (2-0). They will play on Saturday, with the loser facing a semifinal matchup against the winner of the later game between Sweden (2-0) and No. 1 overall seed Canada (2-0).

China, Kazakstan, Russia and Germany have been eliminated from medal contention with 0-2 records and one game to play.

In contrast to the 10-0 victory over Germany in the Americans' opener, they met some resistance from China, which used its bodies and sticks to slow the United States and took chances that resulted in several good scoring opportunities.

"That's their style," Granato said. "When they first came onto the hockey scene, they had only watched NHL tapes, so they were full-body checking. They've toned that down a little."

Even so, the only Chinese goal was a fluke, when Yang Xiuqing lofted the puck from just inside the center line and Sarah Tueting misplayed the bounce and let it trickle through her pads at 16:01 of the second.

"It was kind of a lucky goal," Yang said.

Yeah, kind of.

"I don't even know how that went through," forward Katie King said. "A goalie doesn't like to let in any goal, but we were kind laughing. What can you do?"

The Americans had scored 18 unanswered Olympic goals since an empty-netter against Canada clinched the gold medal in Nagano in 1998. Although China still trailed 7-1, the end of the shutout set off a celebration on the bench and among a small, Chinese flag-waving contingent in the stands.

Other than that, the only blemish on the U.S. victory was Tricia Dunn's game misconduct penalty after checking Chinese forward Zhang Jing from behind. Zhang stayed down on the ice, surrounded by her teammates, for 90 seconds before skating off rubbing her head, with a teammate holding each arm.

She returned for the second period. Dunn was given a major penalty and a game misconduct, but even a skater down for the five-minute power play, the Americans outshot China 2-0.

Dunn did not come into the mix zone to talk to reporters after the game. But she told teammates in the dressing room that she caught a skate edge on the ice and lost her balance.

"You don't go out to hit someone from behind, and she's not a dirty player," forward Katie King said. Said defenseman Angela Ruggiero: "It's not something you want to happen, especially in the Olympics."

Granato scored just 1:19 into the game, then made it 3-0 at the first period's 16:30 mark. She appeared to pick up her third goal with 10 seconds left in the second period, but the puck was tipped by Natalie Darwitz.

A few fans prematurely threw hats onto the ice, which could explain why none came out when she actually completed the hat trick 4:33 into the third. It was the fourth women's hat trick in Olympic history, and the first of these games.

King and Laurie Baker each had two goals and Ruggiero, Shelley Looney, Julie Chu and Sue Merz also scored. Tueting made nine saves as the United States, for the second time in as many games, had more goals than its opponents had shots.

Guo Hong, who was once named best player in the world championships, is known as the "Great Wall of China" for her goaltending prowess and for a height of 5-foot-8 that makes her taller than most of the team's defensemen.

But the bigger they are, the bigger the space between their pads.

And the United States found it often.

Guo stopped 59 shots but gave up goals in bunches as the Americans scored three times in 69 seconds in the second period and two just 30 seconds apart in the third.

The United States improved to 19-0 all-time against China, including six wins on a pre-Olympic tour by a combined score of 69-6. But at least the Chinese showed they can score; in the U.S. opener, Germany mustered just eight shots and never really threatened to beat Sara DeCosta.

This time, it was Tueting in net, as Smith stuck with his strategy of rotating his goaltenders.



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