PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA—With two wins and a 9-1 edge in goals under their belt at the Pyeongchang Olympics, the Canadian women turn their attention to the archrival U.S. next.

“We’ve started something really good here. And we’re looking forward to continue on this journey and this mission that we’re on,” forward Meghan Agosta said Tuesday after Canada dispatched Finland 4-1 at the Kwandong Hockey Centre.

With both North American teams rolling toward the semifinals — the U.S. can send both to the semis with a win over the Russian entry in the late Pool A game — the final preliminary-round game between the two women’s hockey heavyweights Thursday will be an interesting appetizer before their expected Olympic final showdown.

The top two in Pool A earn byes to the semifinals. The bottom two play quarterfinals against the top two teams in Pool B.

Canada coach Laura Schuler says her team’s approach Thursday won’t change no matter the playoff-round scenario.

Riikka Valila, Finland’s 44-year-old veteran, became the oldest woman to score a goal in either the Olympics or women’s world championships at 7:17 of the third period. She stuffed in her own rebound off an athletic Shannon Szabados save following a Canadian defensive letdown.

Finnish star goalie Noora Raty had a busy afternoon at the other end.

The Canadian women controlled much of the game and handled a Finnish pushback in the third.

Canada’s speed forced Finnish turnovers from which they profited with some pretty goals, including one after just 35 seconds. The penalty kill was solid and Szabados, following a shutout performance by Ann-Renee Desbiens, had a fine outing.

On the minus side, the power play was sloppy at times while going 0-for-5.

“I do like where our team’s at,” said Schuler. “I thought tonight we had a real strong first and second period. Finland obviously played us really hard in the third period. I think we might have got ahead of ourselves a little bit, maybe thinking too much offensively instead of playing a sound defensive game.

“Because Finland’s a great team and they can generate a lot of offence too. So the importance of us making sure that we’re staying connected and playing defensive hockey first before heading down the other end.”

Outshout 32-23 by Canada, the Finns had their chances. Rosa Lindstedt hit the goalpost in the first period and Szabados stopped Susanna Tapani on a breakaway in the third.

Canada struck early with Daoust intercepting a Finnish clearance for a 2-on-1 opportunity. Daoust deftly delayed her pass to freeze the goalie and then slipped the puck between the defenceman’s legs to Agosta for a tap-in goal just 35 seconds in.

Poulin’s goal, which made it 2-0 at 17:11 of the first, needed a video review for confirmation after the referee waved it off. After Jenni Hiirikoski lost the puck in front of goal, Poulin roofed a backhand that came out as fast as it went in. The review came at the next break in play.

The Canadians thought they had a third with 4.5 seconds remaining in the period when a shot from Rebecca Johnston seemed to trickle in, with Natalie Spooner jabbing away from the edge of the crease for good measure. But the review went against the Canadians this time.

On the disallowed goal, Schuler said she did not get an explanation but had no beef with the decision, saying the scoreboard showed it didn’t cross the goal-line.

Daoust made it 3-0 at 8:19 of the second, beating Raty with a low wrist shot through traffic after faking a slap shot. Saulnier padded the lead at 18:26 after being put in alone on a perfect pass from Johnston.

Daoust scored twice in the win over the Russian entry.

At 2-0-0, Japan and Switzerland have already qualified for the quarter-finals out of Pool B.

The Canadian women are after a fifth straight Olympic title. The Finns, who lost 3-1 to the U.S. in its opener, are two-time bronze medallists.

Canada’s record against the Finns at the world championships and Olympics now stands at 27-1-0 (6-0-0 at the Olympics).

The Finns won bronze at 2017 IIHF women’s world championship in Plymouth, Mich., where they upset Canada 4-3 in the preliminary round with Raty making 35 saves. The closest Finland had come previously to beating the Canadians was a 6-6 exhibition tie in 1999.

Meaghan Mikkelson, a 33-year-old defenceman and three-time Olympian from St. Albert, Alta., marked her 100th international appearance for Canada.

–Credit: TORONTO STAR

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