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U.S. women rout Sweden to reach hockey final

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 yesterday.

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 women's hockey 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, a four-time Olympian. "Everyone knows. No one was saying, 'Remember, remember.' "

The Americans 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 and beat the standout Swedish goalie cleanly, scoring on exactly the type of shot Martin repeatedly stopped with style four years ago.

"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."

The rematch was a comprehensive thrashing of the Swedes and Martin, who came nowhere close to her performance four years ago in Turin. She again made 37 saves, 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, which beat Finland, 5-0, in the other semifinal last night.

"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 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 cheering mostly for the Swedes.

If the Americans needed any extra motivation, they got it Sunday night in the same rink. Much of the roster attended the U.S. men's team's upset of Canada.

Sweden's win in Turin was the first loss by a North American team in a major women's hockey tournament except to each other. Martin was the star, but she missed much of last season at Minnesota-Duluth with a knee injury, only recently returning to competition.

Except for the symmetry of another semifinal meeting, there was little reason to expect a repeat: The United States hadn't lost to Sweden in five international meetings since Turin, outscoring the Swedes 30-2 before beating them three more times in exhibitions leading up to Vancouver.

And on the 30th anniversary of the U.S. men's Miracle on Ice victory over the Soviet Union in Lake Placid, Johnson watched his team prevent any chance of a repeat of that minor miracle in Turin.

With U.S. men's team general manager Brian Burke watching from rinkside, the Americans scored less than 71/2 minutes into a well-played first period. Moments after Vetter stopped Pernilla Winberg on a point-blank shot, Jenny Potter hit Lamoureux in stride with a long pass, and the 20-year-old beat Martin. Meghan Duggan then popped home a rebound during a power play 69 seconds later.

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

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