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Finland 6, China 1

By Margaret Lillard
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, February 14, 1998; 4:31 a.m. EST


NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- Riika Nieminen, deprived of her playmaking linemate, scored two unassisted goals Saturday as Finland defeated China 6-1 in the final first-round game of Olympic women's ice hockey.

Marika Lehtimaeki, moved up to the top line in place of the injured Tiia Reima, also scored twice.

The same teams will play in the bronze medal game Tuedsay (Monday night EST). Finland is a four-time bronze medalist at the women's world championships.

Reima has a separated shoulder and coach Rauno Korpi said after Thursday's 4-2 loss to Canada that she was the one who usually set up the plays for his team's high-scoring top line.

But Nieminen found a way to score alone, firing a wrist shot from the high slot, shorthanded and unassisted, at 7:57 of the second period to put the Finns up 4-1. She muscled the puck through the Chinese team late in the third to make it 6-1.

Lehtimaki scored on a rebound midway through the first period and flipped a backhander over goalie Guo Hong's blocker to make it 5-1 early in the third.

Finland opened the scoring just over a minute into the game on a slap shot by Johanna Ikonen.

Sari Fisk put the Finns up by three with her own rebound goal at 4:37 of the second. But China's Liu Hongmei grabbed a bad pass at center ice and caught goalie Tuula Puputti unprepared to make it 3-1 just 13 seconds later.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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