AP

U.S. women meet challenge, reach world championship semifinals

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PLYMOUTH, Mich. (AP) — In their final game before the start of single-elimination play, Hannah Brandt and her American teammates faced a stern challenge at the women’s hockey world championship.

Finland had tied the score in the third period, and goalie Noora Raty had been holding the U.S. at bay.

“We want close games. We want to have to battle,” Brandt said. “We’re going to need that going into the semis and hopefully the finals.”

Brandt scored with 7:35 remaining in the game, and the United States beat Finland 5-3 on Monday night to secure the top seed for the knockout round of the tournament.

Hilary Knight scored twice for the Americans, who won all three of their games in group play and will advance straight to Thursday’s semifinals, where they’ll face the winner of a quarterfinal between Russia and Germany.

“I thought that was a great test for our team,” Brandt said.

Canada received the other bye into the semis and will take on the winner of a Finland-Sweden quarterfinal. The quarterfinals are Tuesday.

“It will be a rivalry (Tuesday),” Finland captain Jenni Hiirikoski said. “There’s a lot of friends in that team, and it’s nice to play against them.”

Finland upset Canada 4-3 on Saturday, and the Finns would have received one of the two byes if they’d been able to earn a point against the U.S.

They rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie the game at 3 in the third period, but Brandt put the Americans back ahead, redirecting a nice pass from Gigi Marvin. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson added an empty-net goal for the U.S.

Raty, who had 35 saves against Canada, had 35 against the Americans as well, keeping the game close until the very end.

Shortly after Brandt’s goal put the U.S. ahead, the Americans had to kill off 95 seconds of a 5-on-3 disadvantage. They were able to do it.

“We knew Finland was going to come to play,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said. “They’re a great team. We saw what they did against Canada the other night.”

After a dispute with USA Hockey that had players threatening to boycott this tournament, the women’s national team reached an agreement to end the wage dispute shortly before the event started. Then the Americans began the competition with a 2-0 win over rival Canada.

They followed that up with a 7-0 victory over Russia, but Finland become the first team to score on the U.S., taking a 1-0 lead on a wrist shot by Susanna Tapani past Alex Rigsby.

Knight tied it later in the first period when she was able to stuff home a loose puck while the Americans had a 5-on-3 advantage.

Kendall Coyne put the U.S. ahead with a goal 3:33 into the second, and Knight made it a two-goal lead. Finland pulled within one when Hiirikoski scored in the final minute of the period, and Michelle Karvinen tied it with 10:56 left in the third.

The first three goals by the U.S. came on the power play. Finland was whistled for five penalties in the second period alone.

“Special teams — you love ’em, you hate ’em sometimes. They can screw up the flow of the game,” Duggan said.

“You’ve got to capitalize on special teams, obviously, so I think we’ve had a few power-play goals through the tournament, so I’m really happy with that. We’ve got a lot of players that are playing in a ton of different roles.”

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Matt, Becca Hamilton are first U.S. Olympic mixed doubles curling team

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A brother and sister from Wisconsin will be the busiest athletes at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

A month ago the Hamilton siblings, Matt and Becca, qualified to compete at the Olympics with the U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams, and today they also qualified to play as a mixed doubles team.

With a win over two of their teammates, John Shuster (skip of Matt’s four-man team) and Cory Christensen (alternate on Becca’s four-woman team), at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for mixed doubles curling, the Hamiltons earned the opportunity to curl on potentially every day of the Olympics.

The Hamiltons will start their Olympic competitions with the mixed doubles tournament on Thursday, Feb. 8, the day before the the Opening Ceremony marks the official beginning of the Olympics. When mixed doubles wraps up on Tuesday the 13th, they’ll start playing separately in the men’s and women’s tournaments on Wednesday the 14th. The traditional curling tournaments go until Sunday, Feb. 25, the day of the Closing Ceremony.

Of course, if one of their teams doesn’t advance past the round-robin rounds to the semifinals and medal games, they’ll have some time off. But if they do go all the way to the gold medal matches, it’ll mean 18 straight days of competition for the Hamiltons.

Matt and Becca showed their readiness during the Olympic Trials. They had the second-best record of the round-robin stage, 5-2, then beat Shuster and Christensen twice in two days to win the Olympic berth. The score of the final was 6-5.

After the match, the siblings–who say their partnership works because they can be brutally honest on the ice–had nothing but kind words for each other.

Becca, the younger Hamilton by a year and a half, said her older brother “taught me everything I know.”

Matt then said of Becca, “it’s been impressive to watch her grow up and become the superstar she is now.”

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Jessica Kooreman, Thomas Hong, Ryan Pivirotto earn last three spots on U.S. Olympic short track team

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Jessica Kooreman, Thomas Hong and Ryan Pivirotto grabbed the last three spots on the U.S. Olympic short track team on Sunday as competition wrapped up at the Olympic Trials.

Kooreman survived a fall in the last women’s race of the Trials, the 1000m #2 A Final, to finish second overall in the 1000m and earn a spot on the team that will race on Olympic ice in PyeongChang.

Kooreman, a 2014 Olympian, joined Lana Gehring, a 2010 Olympian and Maame Biney, a 17-year-old who will make her Olympic debut in 2018, on the U.S. Olympic women’s short track team.

At 34 years old, Kooreman will be the veteran of the team. Four years ago, she swept all three events at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials and then finished fourth in the 1000m at the Sochi Winter Games.

She struggled to breakthrough to the top spots at this Trials; she finished third overall in both the 1500m on Friday and 500m on Saturday.

Left off the team is Katherine-Reutter Adamek, a two-time Olympic medalist from Vancouver who retired in 2013 due to injuries before coming back in 2016 in hopes of making another Olympic team. Reutter is the American record holder and Olympic silver medalist in the 1000m, but her Olympic aspirations ended when she didn’t qualify for the 1000m #2 A Final today.

Hong, a native of South Korea who moved to the U.S. at 4 years old, finished fourth in the men’s 1000m #2 A Final, and fourth overall. Pivirotto didn’t qualify for that A Final, and had to watch from the sidelines as his Olympic fate was decided. Pivirotto clinched the fifth and final spot by finishing fifth overall across all distances.

The overall winner on the men’s side was John-Henry Krueger, who was nearly undefeated over the three days of racing and won four of six A Finals: both 1000m finals today, the 500m #2 final yesterday and the 1500m #2 final on Friday. 22-year-old Krueger was expected to make the Olympic team four years ago, but had to withdraw from some races at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials when he was diagnosed with swine flu.

J.R. Celski, the only member of the team with prior Olympic experience, had an uncharacteristically rough Trials with four falls in three days. However his results when he did stay on his skates were good enough to put him into second-place overall. The third overall men’s skater was Aaron Tran, who also make the Olympic team.

The U.S. Olympic short track team:

Lana Gehring
Maame Biney
Jessica Kooreman
John-Henry Krueger
J.R. Celski
Aaron Tran
Thomas Hong
Ryan Pivirotto

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