U.S. women's hockey defeats Finland, set for Olympic gold-medal showdown vs. Canada

The U.S. will battle Canada for women's ice hockey gold at the Beijing Olympics after its 4-1 semifinal win over Finland on Monday.

Team USA will seek its second straight Olympic gold against archrival Canada (11:10 p.m. ET Wednesday). Canada rolled through Switzerland 10-3 in the semifinals and has outscored its opponents 54-8 -- including a 4-2 win over the U.S. in the preliminary round.

The U.S. and Canada have faced each other in six of the seven Olympic women's hockey finals. Canada has won gold four times.

"You know, I think it's wonderful hockey. It's the most beautiful rivalry in sports," forward Hilary Knight said after scoring a goal and adding an assist in Monday's win. "It gets the best and the worst out of both of us at the same time. And it's just a wonderful game."

Finland, which will face Switzerland for the bronze medal, put up an impressive fight in the semifinal. Goalie Anni Keisala made 38 saves, confidently keeping her team in the game. On the U.S. side, Alex Cavallini (25 saves) didn't have the same quantity of saves but made some quality ones, including a spectacular stop on Finnish forward Michelle Karvinen on a 2-on-1 late in the first period to keep the game scoreless.

In the second period, Knight gave the U.S. some breathing room and made history in the process. The Americans finally hit the board on the power play 3:29 into the second period, as forward Hannah Brandt found defender Cayla Barnes wide-open on the right side of the Finland net for a goal. Knight had the secondary assist to tie Natalie Darwitz for second-most career Olympic points by an American woman with 25.

Knight broke that tie on a goal with 1:07 left in the second period as Team USA's top line converted. Kendall Coyne Schofield outworked Finland's defense to win a loose puck in the corner, setting up a sequence that ended with Knight scoring from just in front of the Finland crease for the 2-0 lead.

The U.S. had a 33-7 shot advantage and a 4-0 lead after two periods in the teams' first meeting in the preliminary round. After two periods in the semifinal, they had a 33-12 shot advantage but only a 2-0 lead.

Forward Hayley Scamurra scored what would be a critical insurance goal with 3:58 left in the game. She created a scoring chance with a hard forecheck behind the Finnish net and then tipped a Barnes point shot to give the U.S. a 3-0 lead. That third-period goal loomed large when Finland's Susanna Tapani scored with 26 seconds remaining and her net empty.

Abby Roque then scored into an empty net for the 4-1 final score, securing another showdown with the Canadians.

Canadian player Sarah Nurse said she was looking forward to renewing the rivalry one more time.

"Obviously, playing the U.S., it's always an exciting game, always an exciting rivalry," said Nurse, who had four assists against Switzerland. "Our biggest focus is we get to play another game at the Olympics. We came here to play seven games. We wanted the last one to be the gold-medal game."

Canada's 54 goals are an Olympic record for a single tournament. The previous mark of 48 goals by Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Games came in five games.

"I think we're taking the game to new heights right now," Nurse said. "We're playing a style of hockey that's never been seen in our tournament before. And so, in five to 10 years, other countries are going to be playing our style of play, and we're going to keep pushing the envelope and keep making our sport better."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.