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Brianna Decker screamed, her agony audible to most people in a nearly empty arena on Thursday. Incessant cries were heard after the tangled collision, the first period’s clock stopped at 10:58.
American hockey officials then confirmed what most people immediately assumed: Decker, one of the most formidable and experienced players on the US women’s team, would not be able to compete. for the rest of the Olympics, a blow to the team’s repeat ambitions. as Olympic champions.
The United States, which defeated Finland 5-2, did not bring any reserves to Beijing. Coach Joel Johnson said after the game that he would explore his options for any necessary squad adjustments.
“It was terrible,” said Kendall Coyne Schofield, the US captain, of the moment Decker was injured in a collision with Ronja Savolainen of Finland. “There is no other way to explain it. It’s really hard to see. She’s one of the toughest, strongest players in the world, and so when you hear her react like that, obviously, it’s horrible and stressful for us. ”
Decker, a striker from Dousman, Wis., made her third Olympic shortlist just four years after she led the United States in assists in a gold medal run at the Olympics. Pyeongchang 2018. This year, she was a substitute captain.
After health officials evacuated a conscious and calm Decker from the bandages on a stretcher, the Americans responded quickly. Amanda Kessel slowly approached the net along the goal line, moved around the bend and just 21 seconds after play resumed, scored the first goal of the tournament for the United States.
Less than three minutes later, Alex Carpenter scored with a power play to give the US the lead. Coyne Schofield scored two more for the Americans in the second half, and Carpenter scored again in the third.
Susanna Tapani had two goals for Finland in the third half.
“It’s not because of the injury that we played better, but I think there was some other emotion going on in people’s hearts,” Johnson said.
Although the match against Finland was essentially a glorification match – both teams were already guaranteed to advance to the next round of the tournament – this match was an opportunity for both teams to tackle the early stages of the competition. formidable opponents.
Finland won bronze in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. Canada, that silver medalist, beat Switzerland, 12-1, earlier on Thursday.
But Thursday has become an expensive nightmare for Americans.
“This team has depth and everyone has a role to play, and that role can change,” said Coyne Schofield. “And whatever that role is, you have to embrace it.”
She added: “You saw that our line changed when Brianna went down, and everyone did an incredible job going up. Brianna Decker couldn’t be replaced in that situation, but everyone stepped on the plate the way they were supposed to. “
The US women’s hockey team opened today’s game against Finland. Americans won gold in 2018 and is expected to compete this month in Beijing.
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