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Sweden goaltender Lovisa Selander blocks the shot of Melodie Daoust of Canada. (Photo taken by Liam Richards. Courtesy of sportsnet.ca.)

The 2018 Four Nations Cup began in Saskatoon on Tuesday with two convincing victories. In the afternoon game, the United States defeated Finland by a final score of 5-1. As for the evening matchup, Canada cruised to a 6-1 win over Sweden.

USA (5) vs. Finland (1)

However, the U.S. did not have the most ideal start, finding themselves behind 1-0 after 20 minutes. This is despite outshooting their opponents 9-3 in the first period, but Finnish goaltender Noora Räty held her ground. Emma Nuutinen scored the lone goal for Finland on a strange bounce that fooled American goaltender Maddie Rooney.

It was not long until the U.S. came storming back, with Brianna Decker getting her team on the board 13 seconds into the second period. Cayla Barnes, Hilary Knight, Sydney Brodt and Dani Cameranesi also scored for the Americans. Five unanswered goals in the middle frame secured the win for the U.S., peppering Räty with 26 shots in the second period alone.

Canada (6) vs. Sweden (1)

For the Canadians, it was a strong performance from beginning to end. Laura Stacey opened the scoring on a shorthanded goal set up by Renata Fast. Before the first period was over, Mélodie Daoust and Sarah Fillier added to Canada’s lead. Outshooting Sweden 14-4, the Canadians took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.

Early in the second period, Laura Fortino put Canada ahead 4-0 on the tournament’s first power play goal. The third period saw Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin get her first goal of the tournament, while Daoust scored her second of the game. A late power play goal from Sweden’s Emma Nordin spoiled a potential shutout for Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados.

Finland (3) vs. Sweden (2)

On Wednesday, the Finns came out flying against Sweden in the afternoon game. After doubling the Swedes on the shot clock 19-8 in the first period, Finland went into the intermission leading 3-0 with goals from Venla Hovi, Riikka Välilä and Nuutinen. Sweden responded by outshooting Finland 12-5 in the second period, but they could not find the back of the net.

With an empty Swedish net and a three-goal lead, it appeared as though Finland had secured the victory with just over three minutes to play. This was until Lisa Johansson and Hanna Olsson both scored within a 15-second span for Sweden, bringing them back to within one goal. Finland also took a late penalty and faced a 6-on-4 situation, but Finnish goaltender Jenna Silvonen shut the door as they held on for a 3-2 win.

USA (2) vs. Canada (1)

In a showdown between Canada and the U.S., it was the Americans who would strike first. Hannah Brandt picked up her first goal of the tournament, scoring a mere 1:18 into the game. The U.S. dominated the opening period, outshooting Canada 16-4, but Szabados stopped 15 out of 16 shots. Canada improved their play in the second period, but the score remained 1-0 heading into the final frame.

Canada eventually broke through on a goal from Loren Gabel, which knotted the game 1-1 early in the third period. With only 98 seconds remaining, Brodt scored for the U.S. on her second goal of the tournament. Despite Canada’s best efforts, the Americans would hang on and squeak past by a final score of 2-1.

The preliminary round will conclude on Friday when the U.S. takes on Sweden and Canada faces off against Finland. Barring any major upset, the Finns and Swedes will likely play for bronze, with the Canadians and Americans battling for gold in an expected pair of great matchups on Saturday.

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