Defending champions United States enjoyed a winning start to the Ice Hockey Women's World Championships by beating hosts Canada ©Andre Ringuette/IIHF

United States got their 2016 Women's Ice Hockey World Championship title defence off to the best possible start as they overcame Olympic champions and hosts Canada 3-1 on the opening day of the tournament at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops.

In a rematch of the 2015 final, Laura Fortino broke the deadlock for the home country in the third period with a clinical finish to edge her side in front.

Hilary Knight restored parity for the Americans, winners of six of the last eight World Championships, moments later before Brianna Decker turned the contest on its head as she found the net for a 2-1 lead.

As Canada pressed forward in search of an equaliser, the 2015 champions capitalised as Knight scored her second of the game when she guided the puck into the empty net after the hosts had withdrawn goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer in favour of a sixth skater.

The result saw the US move into second place in Group A, where all four teams will qualify for the play-off round.

The top two will progress directly to the semi-finals, while the other teams will reach the quarter-finals with the top two in Group B.

"It was a good start to the tournament,” American Monique Lamoureux said.

"Obviously it was a little bit sloppy for us, not connecting on some passes and some turnovers.

“We’ll want to eliminate those down the road in the tournament.

“But you win games in different ways.”

Finland won a rematch of the 2015 bronze medal clash as they beat Russia 5-3
Finland won a rematch of the 2015 bronze medal clash as they beat Russia 5-3 ©Andre Ringuette/IIHF

In the other Group A match to take place on the first day of competition, 2015 bronze medallists Finland also began their campaign with a win as they beat Russia 5-3.

Tanja Niskanen scored twice and added an assist, and Jenni Hiirikoski, Ronja Savolainen and Noora Tulus all got their names on the scoresheet to earn another success over the Russians, who they beat in the bronze medal match last year.

Iya Gavrilova also managed a two-goal salvo, with Anna Shibanova scoring the other Russian goal, but their efforts proved to be in vain as Finland edged an entertaining encounter.

The victory has sent the Finns top of the group.

In Group B, Olivia Carlsson’s strike eight seconds from the end of regulation time gave Sweden a narrow 3-2 win over the Czech Republic at the McArthur Centre to boost their hopes of going through.

Switzerland edged Japan 4-2 in the other Group B clash.

Actionis due to continue tomorrow as Switzerland face the Czech Republic before Finland go up against the US.

Japan then meet Sweden before a busy day two concludes when Canada entertain Russia.