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USA hockey begins gold defense without Brianna Decker

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The U.S. women’s national hockey team dominated in its first match of the 2022 Beijing Olympics, but will be without assistant captain Brianna Decker as the tournament continues. 

Decker, a six-time World gold medalist with Team USA, was stretchered off the ice less than 10 minutes into a 5-2 victory over Finland on Thursday. Despite the loss, the U.S moved to 7-0 in Olympic openers with two goals from Kendall Coyne Schofield and two from Alex Carpenter. 

The game appeared to be over at 5-1 with time expired, but when NBC came out of commercial there was 2:20 on the clock and play resumed. Officials ruled that Finland’s Susanna Tapani scored and a replay showed the puck hit the camera. The teams went back in time to that point and re-played the final minutes. There was also a brief light outage earlier in the game. 

The U.S. is defending its gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. It was the team’s first since 1998 and came against rival Canada in an overtime shootout.

Brianna Decker injured in first period 

Brianna Decker

USA’s Brianna Decker is taken out of the rink on a stretcher after colliding with Finland’s Ronja Savolainen in the first game of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. (ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Decker, a three-time Olympian, collided with Finland’s Ronja Savolainen around the 9:32 mark of the first. They were both down for several minutes and Decker’s screams could be heard in the empty arena without any fans. Amanda Kessell told the NBC Sports broadcast at intermission the injury “was just sickening.”

She did not return to the game with an apparent leg injury. USA Hockey said after the game appeared to be over she won’t return for the tournament, per Erica L. Ayala. 

Team USA did not bring any reserve players to Beijing, as other countries such as Canada. General Manager Katie Million said in a press conference on Jan. 3 their understanding is they have a “small, a very small, window to bring in alternate players if we need to,” via Alex Azzi at NBC Sports.

Decker has made 146 appearances for the national team with 170 total points (81 goals, 89 assists). The team already experienced significant change ahead of the Olympics with key players retiring. There are still 13 players on the 23-player roster who won in PyeongChang and 15 with prior Olympic experience. 

Kessel opens scoring for Team USA 

Kessel scored Team USA’s first goal of the 2022 Olympics one minute after the injury. The 5-foot-6 forward is also playing in her third Olympics. 

Alex Carpenter, who led the U.S. with four games at the 2014 Sochi games, scored on the power play advantage off a pass from Jincy Dunne to take a 2-0 lead midway into the first period. Dunne is playing in her first Olympics after winning silver in the World competition for the senior national team in 2021. 

Kendall Coyne Schofield adds pair of goals

Kedall Coyne Schofield added a pair of goals in the second period to give Team USA breathing room. Her first was a strike from the circle and she added another 64 seconds later on a redirection. 

Finland’s Susanna Tapani scored the country’s first goal of the games on a power play minutes into the third period and Team USA added one more from Carpenter on a feed from Abby Roque midway through. Tapani’s unassisted goal that later counted concluded the scoring.  

Team USA continues its four preliminary round games on Saturday against the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). Puck drop is scheduled for 8:10 a.m. ET. The team plays Switzerland at the same time on Sunday. 

The heated rivalry game against Canada is Monday at 11:10 p.m. ET. The quarterfinals begin Thursday night in the U.S. 



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