By Frank Pingue
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The United States punched their ticket to the semi-finals of the Olympic women's ice hockey competition with a routine 9-0 win over Switzerland on Monday.
Much as they did in their opening game against Finland, the second-ranked U.S. team dominated throughout and started to run away with it when two goals in an eight-second span of the first period made it 3-0.
"It was pretty awesome to see our team came out tonight and always trying to bring the same level of play no matter who we are playing," Amanda Kessel, who had two goals and two assists, told reporters.
"We stayed to our game today and it's huge going into the next game against Canada."
Swiss goalie Florence Schelling, who made 64 saves against Canada in an opening-game loss, had another busy night as she made 44 saves against a U.S. team who never took their foot off the gas pedal.
The United States will now shift their focus to Wednesday's matchup with arch-rivals Canada, which is widely expected to be a preview of the gold medal game between the two superpowers.
"We have Canada on Wednesday and we're going to have to maintain that speed the entire game," said forward Jocelyne Lamoureux.
"We're not going to be able to take a shift off because they'll take advantage of that, they are a good team."
By securing one of the top two spots in Group A, the U.S. women earned a bye to the semi-finals while winless Switzerland, who face Germany in their final preliminary round game, will play a quarter-final against one of the top two teams from Group
In an effort to make the women's event more competitive, the world's top-four ranked teams were placed together in Group A. But while scores have not been as lopsided as they were at the 2010 Games, the United States and Canada continue to assert their dominance.
Switzerland made a solid start to the game and even had a few scoring chances but the floodgates opened after the United States scored around the midway mark of the first period.
Kessel, Monique Lamoreux and Kendall Coyne each had two goals while Brianna Decker, Hillary Knight and Alex Carpenter also scored. U.S. goalie Molly Schaus needed to turn aside 10 shots for the shutout.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)