Editor’s note: Each and every day of the 2022 Winter Games, NBCOlympics.com will break down the biggest overnight stories from across the competition landscape that you might have missed. A separate daily article will also detail what not to miss over the next day of competition.
While Olympic competition actually started on Wednesday — there were four curling games, including one featuring the United States — Thursday provided the first substantial slate of events. Three sports were featured, and the day was headlined by the U.S. women’s hockey team winning its first game of the tournament.
With one day left before the Opening Ceremony officially rings in these Olympic Games and kicks the competition schedule up a notch, let’s dive into the overnight action…
United States gets past Finland
The U.S. women kicked off their Olympic gold medal defense with a 5-2 win over Finland in their first of five preliminary games. Kendall Coyne Schofield and Alex Carpenter led the team with two goals a piece, and Amanda Kessel picked up a goal as well.
Susanna Tapani scored early in the third period for Finland and also ended up scoring a second goal minutes later without even knowing. When the clock hit zeroes, both teams appeared ready to head back to the locker room when the officials ruled that Tapani had scored with just a couple minutes remaining. The score changed to 5-2 and the game resumed with 2:20 left in the third, but Finland had no chance at a comeback.
The win was marred by an incident early in the game when U.S. forward Brianna Decker got tangled up with Finnish defender Ronja Savolainen. Decker was stretchered off the ice and didn’t return, though the severity of her injury is still unknown.
Canada cruises from puck drop
Team USA’s biggest rival, Canada, got its Olympic tournament off to as strong a start as it could have possibly hoped for. The Canadian women fired off 70 shots on goal against Switzerland, with eight different players finding the back of the net for a total of 12 goals. Natalie Spooner (two goals, three assists) and Claire Thompson (one goal, four assists) led Canada with five points apiece, while Sarah Fillier (two goals, one assist) impressed in her Olympic debut as Canada won by a final score of 12-1.
The United States and Canada both return to the ice on Saturday for their second games of the tournament, though the two powerhouses won’t get to face each other until next week. That meeting will come as part of group-stage play, with another meeting in the gold medal match potentially looming if both teams continue to play up to their usual standards.
A day after winning their opening game against Australia, the U.S. duo of Vicky Persinger and Chris Plys faltered on Day 2 of the mixed doubles tournament. Playing a pair of games just a couple hours apart, Persinger and Plys fell to teams from Italy and Norway and now carry a 1-2 record.
Both games were defined by mistakes. In the first match, a missed takeout attempt from Persinger on her final throw of the second end enabled Italy to collect four easy points and jump out to a 4-1 lead. The U.S. was able to cut Italy’s down to a single point, but missed opportunities proved costly and they ultimately lost the game 8-4.
Persinger and Plys’ second game pitted them against Norway, the silver medalists from 2021 Worlds and the highest-ranked team at the Olympics. For a while, things were going well for the U.S. duo — they led 6-3 after the fifth end — but a pair of three-point ends from Norway quickly flipped the script. The Norwegians added two more points in the final end to cap off an 11-6 victory and pick up their first win of round-robin play.
Moguls is officially underway at the Genting Snow Park, with the U.S. advancing five skiers in Qualification 1. Cole McDonald and Dylan Walczyk are set for the men’s moguls Final 1 on Saturday, Feb. 5 at 6:30 a.m. ET, and Jaelin Kauf, Olivia Giaccio and Hannah Soar will compete in the women’s moguls Final 1 the following day at 6:30 a.m. ET.
Team USA on Wednesday announced its flagbearers for the 2022 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony. When the contingent of 224 American athletes enter the Parade of Nations, it will be curling skip John Shuster and speedskater Brittany Bowe leading the procession.
The honor was initially bestowed upon Shuster and Elana Meyers Taylor, but a positive COVID-19 test forced the bobsledding veteran into isolation and opened the door for Bowe.