VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Angela Ruggiero launched a wrist shot over Kim Martin’s too-late glove and gratefully raised her hands to the roof, finally certain her U.S. women’s hockey team wouldn’t allow another Swedish surprise at the Olympics.

Monique Lamoureux scored three goals, Jessie Vetter made 11 saves and the Americans rolled into the gold-medal match with a 9-1 semifinal victory over Sweden on Monday.

Caitlin Cahow, Karen Thatcher and Kelli Stack each had a goal and an assist as the Americans avenged their 2006 semifinal shootout loss to Sweden, the biggest upset in Olympic history and a sore spot for the six returning members of that bronze-medal team.

”It was the same team, same semifinal game, but the similarities end there,” said Ruggiero, the four-time Olympian. ”Everyone knows. No one was saying, ‘Remember, remember.’”

The Americans, who hadn’t played a game since Thursday, jumped out to another 2-0 lead at Canada Hockey Place, just as they did in Turin.

That’s when Ruggiero skated in on Martin, Sweden’s standout goalie, and beat her cleanly.

”Obviously, what happened in 2006 was disappointing to everybody with USA Hockey,” U.S. Coach Mark Johnson said. ”We’ve talked about when you get the opportunity, to be ready. Today was a big hurdle to get across.”

Martin made 37 saves, the exact number she made four years ago against the Americans, but the ones that got away were more numerous and more glaring.

”To beat them, you need the lucky bounces and excellent goaltending,” Sweden Coach Peter Elander said.

”Today we didn’t get any lucky bounces and we let in some soft goals.”

After outscoring their first four opponents by a combined 40-2, the Americans will face Canada for the gold medal Thursday in the long-anticipated meeting of the sport’s two best teams.

Canada shut out Finland 5-0 in the other semifinal.

”Now, it’s really exciting,” Vetter said. ”We made it to the point we really wanted to. I think we’re ready for the gold-medal game.”

Vetter soundly outplayed Martin, who let in a few stoppable goals and made at least one accidental save off her mask. The Americans’ superior offense took care of the rest, jumping to a 4-0 lead early in the second period on consecutive goals by Ruggiero and Cahow before icing it with three goals on their first six shots in the third period, silencing a large Canadian crowd that was cheering mostly for the Swedes.

If the Americans needed any extra motivation, they got it Sunday night in the same rink. Most of the players attended the U.S. men’s team’s victory over Canada.

”I feel we’ve yet to play our best game,” said Lamoureux, whose twin sister, Jocelyne, had two assists. ”It’s hopefully coming Thursday.”


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