U.S. women open defence of Four Nations Cup with win over Finland

Hilary Knight celebrates after scoring a goal against Finland (Petr David Josek/AP).

SASKATOON — Brianna Decker says she didn’t experience the emotional hangover many athletes feel after an Olympic Games.

The U.S. women’s hockey team forward scored a goal and an assist in a 5-1 win over Finland to open the Four Nations Cup tournament Tuesday.

It was the first game for the American women since edging Canada 3-2 in a shootout to win Olympic gold in February.

The U.S. won the first gold medal in Olympic women’s hockey in 1998 before losing to Canada in four straight finals.

Decker, whose club team is the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, says the desire for more international success kept her motivated.

"It took us 20 years to finally reach that moment and feel that way," the 27-year-old said. "There was a point in the summer where, it wasn’t a letdown, it was ‘hey, it’s time to go, ramp it back up, prep for the season and be ready to go come fall."

"Just being able to defend what we did in February, continue to do that and keep coming out on top in the tournaments … they always say once you’re on top, it’s harder to defend than it is to get to the top."

Hilary Knight, Sarah Brodt and Dani Cameranesi also had a goal and an assist apiece with Cayla Barnes also scoring for the U.S.

Maddie Rooney, who backstopped the U.S. to gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea, needed just nine saves for the win against the Finns.

Veteran netminder Noora Raty was the busier of the two goalies, repelling 44 of 49 shots in the loss. Emma Nuutinen scored Finland’s lone goal.

Trailing 1-0 despite outshooting the Finns 9-3 in the first period, the U.S. scored five unanswered goals in the second starting with Decker’s just 10 seconds in.

"This was a good first game for us," defender Kacey Bellamy said.

"I think the first period was a little sloppy, but we’re getting used to new systems and playing with a new group of players. I think we settled in coming into the second period and third."

The U.S. has won the Four Nations tournament three straight years. This year’s roster features 16 members of the 2018 Olympic team.

Host Canada was to face Sweden later Tuesday in the tournament-opener for both countries.

Knight, 29, says she struggled a little more than Decker with "what next?" after her third Olympic Games.

"There’s all this buildup and all the external attention and pressure, your internal attention and pressure to detail and then it’s sort of like ‘now what?"’ Knight said.

"You’ve got to be really reflective with your thinking and figure it out if you are ready to come back and support this team.

"The girls in the room, we’ve got an unbelievable team. Never in my career have I found a more successful group of women not only on the ice, but in the room and off the ice.

"It’s a really special treat to be a part of and I’m trying to eke out all the moments I can with this group.’

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