By Dan Burns
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - Canada secured the top seeding in the knockout round of the women's Olympic Ice Hockey tournament on Thursday, taking down the U.S. 2-1 and pushing the Americans into second place.
That means both teams get a spot directly in the tournament semi-finals and three days off before their next games while Finland, the Olympic Athletes from Russia, Switzerland and Sweden battle it out in the quarter-final round.
Finland, who beat the Russians to take the third seeding, will meet sixth-seeded Sweden on Saturday for the right to play the Americans, and the fourth-seeded Russians take on fifth-seeded Switzerland to earn a spot against Canada.
The semi-finals are set for Feb. 19 followed by the bronze medal game on Feb. 21. The gold medal game is on Feb. 22.
Canada have outscored their opponents 11-2 so far and have the competition's second-highest scoring efficiency at 10.68 percent, just behind Switzerland who topped Group B.
The U.S. head into the second round with the highest number of shots in the tournament at 137, but are more than four full percentage points behind Canada in scoring efficiency. On Thursday the Americans put 45 shots on goal and came away with one score.
Canada's three goalies, who have each played one game, have amassed the tournament's top save percentage, stopping 97.67 percent of shots against them. The team also have the top penalty-killing unit, having yet to allow a goal while down a player.
The U.S. and Canada are the only two countries to win an Olympic gold medal in women's ice hockey, first introduced a the 1998 games in Nagano. The Americans won the first and Canada have claimed four in a row.
(Reporting by Dan Burns, editing by Ed Osmond)