HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- The 2004 United States Women's National Team (4-0-0) downed Sweden, 9-2 Monday in its final game of the qualification round at the 2004 International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship.
With the victory, the U.S. advances to the gold-medal game Tuesday, facing off against rival Canada at 7:00 p.m. EDT.
On Saturday Team USA handed the host team its first-ever loss in the history of the tournament, a streak that lasted 37 games. The U.S. and Canada have faced off for the gold-medal in each of the previous seven IIHF Women's World Championships, with the U.S. capturing the silver medal each time.
Minnesota Gophers forward Natalie Darwitz (Eagan, Minn.) notched her second hat trick of the tournament to lead Team USA to the win against Sweden. Captain Cammi Granato (Downers Grove, Ill.) registered two assists in a successful return from a knee injury that sidelined her for most of the tournament.
Team USA notched three goals on only eight shots in the first period to jump out to an early lead. Darwitz started the scoring at 6:06 when linemate and Gophers teammate Krissy Wendell (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) carried the puck through the neutral zone and passed it in front of the net for the Darwitz tally.
Sweden goaltender Kim Martin stood up to a barrage of shots, but could not stop Wendell at 13:17 when the forward intercepted the puck at the blueline, walked it past the defensemen and flicked it over Martin's right shoulder to make the score 2-0.
Former UMD Bulldog Jenny Potter (Eagan, Minn.) followed her fellow Minnesotans' lead and notched the third U.S. goal at 14:10. Katie King (Salem, N.H.) drove down the right lane with the puck and slid it to Potter who knocked it in from the left doorstep. Just over one minute later, at 15:40, Sweden took advantage of a pile-up in front of the U.S. net. Sweden captain Erika Holst grabbed a loose puck and fired it over the shoulder of U.S. goaltender Chanda Gunn (Huntington Beach, Calif.) to end the period with a 3-1 score.
Kathleen Kauth (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) notched what would be Team USA's only goal of the second period on a power play at 2:23. Andrea Kilbourne (Saranac Lake, N.Y.) and Kristin King (Piqua, Ohio) got the helpers.
Sweden's Nanna Jansson registered the team's second goal at 4:04. Jansson slipped the puck between Gunn's pads on a soft backhand shot from the right circle.
Sweden replaced Martin with goaltender Frida Glavhammar at the start of the third period. Only seven seconds into her game debut Glavhammar was faced with an Angela Ruggiero (Harper Woods, Mich.) wrister, which she could not stop. Darwitz tallied her second goal of the game mid-way through the stanza at 7:23. Potter slid the puck across the crease to Darwitz, who notched her third marker of the contest, accounting for her second hat trick of the tournament. Katie King registered her first goal of the game only 38 seconds later when she grabbed the loose puck from behind the goal, skated around Glavhammar and flipped the puck into the open net to make the score 8-2. Kilbourne scored the final goal of the game at 19:23 on a power play.
"We had to dig deep into our personnel tonight," said head coach Ben Smith. "Our less heralded players came to the forefront, which was positive to see."
Goaltender Chanda Gunn registered her second win of the tournament, making 13 saves.
Potter earned Player of the Game honors for Team USA. Holst was named Player of the Game for Sweden.
All Team USA games can be heard live via audiocast at www.usahockey.com.
Darwitz, Wendell help U.S. Team to Gold Medal game
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