The loss of star forward Brianna Decker is a devastating blow for a U.S. team hoping to defend its women's hockey title from PyeongChang, but in their first full game without the 2018 gold medalist, the Americans didn't miss a beat. The U.S. took down the ROC 5-0 Saturday morning, and they did so without breaking much of a sweat.
Savannah Harmon broke the ice at the 12:29 mark of the first period off a gorgeous feed from Hilary Knight on the power play. Knight, who's now competing in her fourth straight Olympics, received the puck just outside the goal crease and drew the attention of the ROC penalty killers. Harmon then positioned herself on the doorstep and Knight delivered a perfect backhand feed to set her up for the layup goal. Doesn't get much better than that.
"She is so incredibly skilled," Harmon said of Knight. "I'm (in front of the goal) and in my head I'm like 'She's going to figure out a way to get me this puck' and there she does this incredible backhand. She gets position and slides it over so my job was really easy."
After 20 minutes, the U.S. led the Russian athletes handily in shots on goal with a 19-2 advantage. And had it not been for the strong play of ROC goaltender Maria Sorokina, the score probably would've been much more lopsided.
The U.S. continued its strong play in the middle stanza, outshooting the Russian athletes 17-4 and doubling the lead to 2-0. Unsurprisingly, it was Knight who picked up the second U.S. tally of the morning with a perfect redirection off a Harmon point wrister.
The scoring parade really took off in the final period, though. Grace Zumwinkle joined the scoresheet with her first-ever Olympic goal. Dani Cameranesi delivered a perfect feed to Zumwinkle, who was stationed in the low slot without any ROC defender in position to make a play. Not long after, Jesse Compher scored her first goal as an Olympian as well. And Alex Carpenter, who was a terror against Finland, netted her third goal of the tournament to extend the U.S. lead to 5-0. The Americans weren't about to let this one get more interesting than it needed to be.
The Americans may not have dominated the scoresheet the way Canada has to start the tournament, but they peppered the ROC with a whopping 62 shots on net while only allowing 12 on the day. U.S. netminder Nicole Hensley wasn't tested very often, but she was forced to make a few timely saves and remained perfect throughout the game as she logged the 12-save shutout.
It can sometimes be tricky for goalies to stay focused in games where they don't see much action, but Hensley was solid throughout.
"I just tried to talk to my teammates as much as I can, go and play the puck when I can, just to keep your head in it and stay focused, keep your routines in between whistles and that," said Hensley. "That's the job, being ready when your teammates need you."
Even without a player as valuable as Decker, the U.S. clearly looks like a team more than capable of returning to the gold medal game.
The Americans will be right back at it with a tilt against the winless Switzerland squad Sunday morning at 8:10 a.m. ET. Their fourth game of the tournament, though, will be a big one. They'll take on Canada Monday night at 11:10 p.m. ET, and you probably won't want to miss it.
Editor's note: Re-live the game as it unfolded in real time with our live blog updates below.
0:00 - Puck is dropped for USA vs. ROC! The U.S. is wearing their new blue sweaters for the first time at these Olympics while the Russian athletes are rocking their white duds. Somehow, the ROC might be getting the W in the uniform department. Yikes.
4:48 - Kendall Coyne Schofield gets a breakaway, but her scoring bid gets shut down by ROC goaltender Maria Sorokina. Great opportunity for the U.S. captain.
5:27 - The Americans head to their first power play of the game after ROC's Alexandra Vafina gets called for hooking. Nothing doing on the advantage, though.
10:03 - ROC's Valeria Pavlova gets a partial breakaway, but she was unable to get a shot on USA netminder Nicole Hensley as a pair of U.S. defenders were closing in.
11:08 - Yelena Provorova heads to the box for tripping. Kendall Coyne Schofield's strong skating claims yet another soul.
12:29 - Savannah Harmon breaks the ice and gives the U.S. the early 1-0 lead. Heck of a play from Hilary Knight to stave off an ROC defender and feed Harmon, who was waiting on the doorstep.
20:00 - After racing into the U.S. zone, Anna Shokhina fired a puck on net trying to tie the game up at one goal apiece. Unfortunately her shot came long after the clock hit zeroes to end the period. The Americans weren't very stoked about it, so a minor scrum followed at the horn.
3:18 - 4-on-4 hockey! Hayley Scamurra goes to the box for tripping, and Nina Pirogova joins her in the box for the same offense. Lots of extra ice for both teams to work with.
4:30 - Quality scoring chance for Kendall Coyne Schofield, but Sorokina makes the big pad save to deny her.
6:57 - Huge save by Hensley to keep the ROC off the board. A turnover in the defensive zone led to a dangerous scoring chance for Anna Shokhina, but the U.S. netminder shut the door. Impressive save given how little action she'd seen through the first period.
8:51 - Hilary Knight redirects a Savannah Harmon point shot past Sorokina to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead. Another impressive play from Knight, who's been making an impact all over the ice throughout the game.
13:30 - Hensley comes up with another big stop, this time on an ROC 3-on-1 rush.
15:37 - Polina Bolgareva heads to the box for cross-checking and the Americans get another power play opportunity. No luck on the advantage, but multiple quality scoring chances.
19:28 - USA's Abbey Murphy sits for an illegal hit. Womp womp.
1:27 - The ROC began the third period on the power play, but the Americans killed it off to keep them off the scoresheet.
3:57 - First-time Olympian Grace Zumwinkle scores her first Olympic goal off a perfect feed from Dani Cameranesi to give the Americans a 3-0 lead. Huge goal to give the U.S. a bit of a cushion in the homestretch.
6:15 - Another goal from a first-time Olympian! This time it's Jesse Compher finding the back of the net to make it 4-0 in favor of the Americans. U.S. in complete control.
8:44 - Alex Carpenter stays hot after scoring twice against the Finns in the tournament opener to give the U.S. a 5-0 lead. ROC isn't coming back in this one, folks.
9:53 - Maria Batalova sits for tripping. Probably the last thing the ROC needed.
13:37 - Maria Pechnikova caused a stir after taking a boarding penalty, and Abbey Murphy was none too pleased with it. She went to the box as well for roughing.
20:00 - We have ourselves a shutout, folks! Hensley completes the game without allowing a single goal, and the U.S. goes two-for-two in their first pair of games at the Olympics. Very solid showing.