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Buffalo's Emily Pfalzer, U.S. head to semifinals at Women's Worlds

There were questions amid the celebrations when the U.S. Women's National Team and USA Hockey came to an agreement three days before the puck dropped on the IIHF Women's World Championships.

With just two days of practice, would Team USA be ready to defend its gold medal? They had no training camp. No exhibition games. How could they possibly be ready, physically or emotionally, for the best competition in the world?

But ready they were.

The U.S. won all three of its preliminary round games at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich.: An emotional 2-0 win over Canada, a commanding 7-0 win over Russia, and a gut-check 5-3 win over Finland.

The Americans face Germany in Thursday's semifinal, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with a live stream on NHL.com. Germany is coming off a 2-1 win over Russia in the quarterfinal.

Should the U.S. win, they will face the winner of Canada-Finland for the gold medal on Friday.

Emily Pfalzer wasn't surprised at all about the success. The Getzville native and graduate of Nichols is playing in her third Women's World Championship. And after two weeks of publicly taking a stand for better compensation and a bigger voice in USA Hockey, Pfalzer and her teammates were more than ready to take that passion and unity to the ice.

Here's what America's women hockey players were fighting for

"Honestly, while the past couple of weeks were pretty hectic, the focus was on our training wherever we were," Pfalzer said by phone on Wednesday. "We were ready to go. Honestly I think this made us all stronger and even more united than we had been. It all translated over to the ice. We went through a tough battle off the ice and stuck together. That made us stronger."

That strength was needed in Monday's preliminary round finale against Finland, a team that has shown remarkable improvement and had knocked off Canada. The Fins took a lead on the Americans and then tied the game, 3-3, in the third period before Hannah Brandt scored to put the U.S. on top.

"I can't say enough good things about my teammates and this team," said Pfalzer, who has five shots on goal and is a plus-1 in the tournament. "Against Finland, we got scored on in the first period but it wasn't something we worried about. We kept focusing on us and got some goals after that. We know goals will come if we work hard.

"A lot of teams we play try to trap us in the neutral zone because we're such a fast team. It's all about keeping our patience, being composed and seeing the ice and taking ice when we see it."

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