By JOSEPH WHITE
2010-02-15 12:49 PM
The Americans opened their tournament Sunday with a 12-1 blowout of China, some 24 hours after Canada's record 18-0 shutout of Slovakia.
The U.S. goal tally was significantly less than that of its North American rival, but mainly because the Americans eased up a bit against a clearly overmatched opponent.
"I think we did a good job playing our game, but at the same time keeping sportsmanship in mind," U.S. captain Natalie Darwitz said. "You don't want to run up the score. I think you saw us pull back and cycle the puck a bit instead of shooting every time, but you don't want to get into bad habits, either."
In the day's other game, Finland rebounded from an early deficit to beat Russia 5-1 .
In front of a crowd that included U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Jenny Potter had three goals in the first 22 minutes to become the leading scorer in U.S. Olympic history. Meghan Duggan netted twice for the Americans, who scored the game's first 11 goals before China's Jin Fengling scored on a power play with 2:21 left.
Jin triumphantly slapped her stick on the ice, and the sympathetic crowd loved it.
"I get uncomfortable when the score gets too lopsided," U.S. coach Mark Johnson said. "I've been on the other end of that too many times. It can be a difficult balancing act. You certainly want to respect your opponent and the hard work they did to get here."
The tournament is unlikely to have another blowout that large. The United States and Canada are by far the field's strongest teams, while China and Slovakia are the weakest. Switzerland, Russia, Sweden and Finland are in the middle, fielding competitive rosters with years of international experience.
In Sunday's second game at the Canada Hockey Place, Nina Tikkinen scored two goals and Marjo Voutilainen got the go-ahead score in the second period as Finland survived a rough-and-tumble start against the Russians.
Saija Sirvio and Venla Hovi also scored for the Finns, ranked third in the world entering the tournament.
Russia's Aleksandra Vafina scored the game's first goal during a power play, and Finnish captain Emma Laaksonen limped off the ice with an apparent leg injury in the first period. She returned for the second period and later said she was fine.
"Our strategy was to take quite a few shots and score the first goal, but when they scored first, it was upsetting," Tikkinen said. "This game was very physical, lots of penalties, but we got better and better when we gained more confidence."