Finnish women’s Miracle on Ice

Canada wins Four Nations Cup, Lionesses defeat U.S.

12.11.2013
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Behind many miracles in women’s ice hockey is a strong goalkeeper. Noora Räty had 58 saves as Finland defeated the United States 3-1. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

ZURICH – The Olympic Center in Lake Placid has a reputation as a place for miracles. Recently Finland made a little history of its own on the arena’s ice, as the Finnish women’s national team defeated host United States in the Four Nations Cup before falling to Canada.

It doesn’t happen often that Canada or the United States lose to European teams in women’s ice hockey. Just a few times in exhibition games, and only once at a big tournament did it happen when Sweden defeated the U.S. in a shootout in the semi-finals of the 2006 Olympics in Turin before losing the gold medal game to Canada.

This time the U.S. women’s national team was again involved on Friday but against Finland. Despite outshooting the Finns 59-16, the Americans didn’t manage to score any more, after Megan Bozek’s goal at 13:45 of the second period cut the Finnish lead to 2-1 following goals from Karolina Rantamäki and Susanna Tapani earlier in the period.

As often when miracles happen, the Finns counted on stellar goaltending as Noora Räty saved 58 out of 59 shots. Her team sealed the win with Jenni Hiirikoski’s 3-1 marker midway through the third period.

The win sent Finland to the gold medal game against undefeated Team Canada while the U.S. had to play in the bronze medal game, which they won 8-1 against Sweden.

Finland has become the strongest European opposition for the North American favourites and that’s no coincidence. Nowhere else in Europe do the national association, clubs and communities put more effort in recruiting female players and sending out the message that ice hockey is a fun sport not just for men but for everybody.

Although the Finns lost the battle for a Women’s World Championship bronze medal to Russia and Switzerland in the last two years, they are usually considered as the strongest European team.

The Lionesses continued their strong showing in the gold medal game. Again they were outshot, 45-22, and again they scored three goals, from Riikka Välilä, Anna Kilponen and Tapani. Välilä (née Nieminen) staged her comeback in style after a ten-year break from ice hockey.

The difference in the gold medal game was that the Canadians were able to crack the Finnish wall. Jenelle Kohanchuk broke Räty’s streak at 2:25 and goals from Vicki Bendus, Jennifer Wakefield and Brianne Jenner made it a 4-1 first-period lead for Canada. Kohanchuk’s second goal and Haley Irwin’s shot into the empty Finnish net made it a 6-3 win.

It was a great event for the defending Olympic champions with less than three months to go until Sochi 2014. The Canadians also defeated Finland 3-1 in the group stage, where they earned wins against Team USA (4-2) and Sweden (4-3) as well.

Meghan Agosta-Marciano led the Canadians in points (1+4=5) while Natalie Spooner was the team’s top goal scorer (4+0).

Team USA had to settle for third place and will use the experience in preparation of the Olympics. A little consolation was that all of the top-five scorers were Americans: Kelli Stack (4+3), Megan Bozek (1+5), Jocelyne Lamoureux (3+2), Hilary Knight (3+2) and Brianna Decker (1+4).

Five more countries including the Olympic participants from Switzerland, Germany and Japan participated in the Smile Japan Bridgestone Blizzak Challenge in Yokohama, Japan.

However, it was none of the Olympic participants that shone but rather the Czech Republic, which was recently relegated and will aim for promotion in the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A on home ice in Prerov.

In the opening game Japan took a 2-0 lead but the Czechs rallied back from a deficit several times to eventually win the game 5-4 thanks to Michaela Pejzlova’s game-winning goal at 13:21 of the third period.

In the second game Ophélie Ryser brought Switzerland the lead after seven seconds of play but the Czechs bounced back to win the game 4-1 with two Denisa Krizova goals.

With a 3-2 victory in their clash against Slovakia the Czechs claimed the tournament win. It was another come-from-behind win as Miriam Mikeskova’s two goals brought Slovakia a 2-0 lead at 7:16 of the third period. Alena Polenska and Krizova tied the game with two markers in the second half of the period and the latter got the game-winning goal in the shootout.

For the Japanese women’s national team it was a rare opportunity to show off the team to the country’s hockey fans, and around 1,000 fans in average came to each game of the team that is nicknamed “Smile Japan” and made national headlines earlier in the year for winning the qualification tournament to earn a spot in Sochi 2014.

The Japanese earned a third-place finish in the five-team tournament with wins against Slovakia (6-0) and Switzerland (2-0) before losing the battle for second place to Germany, the other Sochi qualifier, 3-1.

The Germans bounced back after a 3-2 overtime loss against archrival Switzerland to win their remaining games against Slovakia (7-0) and Japan. Marie Delarbe scored two goals in the 3-1 win over Japan while goalkeeper Ivonne Schröder remained unbeaten until Chiho Osawa’s goal in the last minute of the game.


The Czech Republic defeated host Japan en route to the tournament win in Yokohama. Photo: Photo: Reiji Nagayama / JIHF Photo

Two more women’s national teams were in action in France. The French won their first two out of three games against Austria.

U18 Women’s Category

A Four Nations Tournament for U18 women’s national teams took place in Dmitrov in the Moscow Region and was won by the home team.

Not long ago the Russians were involved in relegation games, but this class showed a convincing performance with surprisingly lopsided scores. Against Finland, the Russians earned a 4-0 lead after two periods and won 5-2.

The second game was even more one-sided. Anna Shokhina and Maria Batalova scored two goals apiece in the 7-1 victory against Germany.

This set up a grand finale against Sweden, which also won its games against Germany (5-2) and Finland (2-1 in OT).

In front of 793 fans it was the visiting team that earned an early lead from Victoria Samuelsson after 88 seconds but Shokhina tied it up late in the opening frame. Shokhina also equalized two minutes after a Maja Wessling goal.

The Russians turned the game with two power-play goals from Nina Pirogova and Maria Bodrikova in the third period. The Swedes tried to react, and with two minutes left Moa Wemblom made it a one-goal game and goalkeeper Sarah Berglihd was pulled. But the team didn’t score another goal and Russia celebrated a 4-3 victory and the tournament win.

Finland finished the event in third place thanks to a 5-2 win against Germany on the last day.

Switzerland hosted three exhibition games against Slovakia in Zuchwil that ended with a win (3-0) for the home team, a tie (2-2) and a Slovak victory (1-0). Both teams will play for promotion in Division I.

MARTIN MERK

<table><tbody><tr><td colspan="6">WOMEN'S TOURNAMENTS</td></tr><tr><td colspan="6"> </td></tr><tr><td colspan="6">Four Nations Cup in the U.S.</td></tr><tr class="even"><td width="42">5 Nov.</td><td>Lake Placid (USA)</td><td>Finland</td><td>- </td><td>Canada</td><td width="38">1-3</td></tr><tr><td>5 Nov.</td><td>Lake Placid (USA)</td><td>Sweden</td><td>- </td><td>USA</td><td>0-10</td></tr><tr class="even"><td>6 Nov.</td><td>Lake Placid (USA)</td><td>Sweden</td><td>- </td><td>Finland</td><td>0-2</td></tr><tr><td>6 Nov.</td><td>Lake Placid (USA)</td><td>USA</td><td>- </td><td>Canada</td><td>2-4</td></tr><tr class="even"><td>8 Nov.</td><td>Lake Placid (USA)</td><td>Canada</td><td>- </td><td>Sweden</td><td>4-3</td></tr><tr><td>8 Nov.</td><td>Lake Placid (USA)</td><td>Finland</td><td>- </td><td>USA</td><td>3-1</td></tr><tr class="even"><td>9 Nov.</td><td>Lake Placid (USA)</td><td>Sweden</td><td>- </td><td>USA (3rd)</td><td>1-8</td></tr><tr><td>9 Nov.</td><td>Lake Placid (USA)</td><td>Finland</td><td>- </td><td>Canada (1st)</td><td>3-6</td></tr><tr><td colspan="6"> </td></tr><tr><td colspan="6">Standings: 1. Canada, 2. Finland, 3. USA, 4. Sweden.</td></tr><tr><td colspan="6"> </td></tr><tr><td colspan="6">Smile Japan Bridgestone Blizzak Challenge in Japan</td></tr><tr class="even"><td>7 Nov.</td><td>Yokohama (JPN)</td><td>Czech Rep.</td><td>- </td><td>Japan</td><td>5-4</td></tr><tr><td>7 Nov.</td><td>Yokohama (JPN)</td><td>Switzerland</td><td>- </td><td>Germany</td><td>3-2 OT</td></tr><tr class="even"><td>8 Nov.</td><td>Yokohama (JPN)</td><td>Slovakia</td><td>- </td><td>Japan</td><td>0-6</td></tr><tr><td>8 Nov.</td><td>Yokohama (JPN)</td><td>Switzerland</td><td>- </td><td>Czech Rep.</td><td>1-4</td></tr><tr class="even"><td>9 Nov.</td><td>Yokohama (JPN)</td><td>Germany</td><td>- </td><td>Slovakia</td><td>7-0</td></tr><tr><td>9 Nov.</td><td>Yokohama (JPN)</td><td>Japan</td><td>- </td><td>Switzerland</td><td>2-0</td></tr><tr class="even"><td>10 Nov.</td><td>Yokohama (JPN)</td><td>Slovakia</td><td>- </td><td>Czech Rep.</td><td>2-3 SO</td></tr><tr><td>10 Nov.</td><td>Yokohama (JPN)</td><td>Japan</td><td>- </td><td>Germany</td><td>1-3</td></tr><tr><td colspan="6"> </td></tr><tr><td colspan="6">Standings: 1. Czech Rep. 3/8, 2. Germany 3/6, 3. Japan 4/6, 4. Switzerland 3/2, 5. Slovakia 3/1.</td></tr><tr><td colspan="6"> </td></tr><tr><td colspan="6">U18 WOMEN'S TOURNAMENTS</td></tr><tr><td colspan="6"> </td></tr><tr><td colspan="6">Four Nations Tournament</td></tr><tr class="even"><td>7 Nov.</td><td>Dmitrov (RUS)</td><td>Sweden</td><td>- </td><td>Germany</td><td>5-2</td></tr><tr><td>7 Nov.</td><td>Dmitrov (RUS)</td><td>Russia</td><td>- </td><td>Finland</td><td>5-2</td></tr><tr class="even"><td>8 Nov.</td><td>Dmitrov (RUS)</td><td>Finland</td><td>- </td><td>Sweden</td><td>1-2 OT</td></tr><tr><td>8 Nov.</td><td>Dmitrov (RUS)</td><td>Russia</td><td>- </td><td>Germany</td><td>7-1</td></tr><tr class="even"><td>9 Nov.</td><td>Dmitrov (RUS)</td><td>Germany</td><td>- </td><td>Finland</td><td>2-5</td></tr><tr><td>9 Nov.</td><td>Dmitrov (RUS)</td><td>Russia</td><td>- </td><td>Sweden</td><td>4-3</td></tr><tr><td colspan="6"> </td></tr><tr><td colspan="6">Standings: 1. Russia 9, 2. Sweden 5, 3. 3. Finland 4, 4. Germany 0.</td></tr><tr><td colspan="6"> </td></tr><tr><td colspan="6">Other games</td></tr><tr class="even"><td></td><td>Zuchwil (SUI)</td><td>Switzerland</td><td>- </td><td>Slovakia</td><td>2-2</td></tr><tr><td></td><td>Zuchwil (SUI)</td><td>Switzerland</td><td>- </td><td>Slovakia</td><td>3-0</td></tr><tr class="even"><td></td><td>Zuchwil (SUI)</td><td>Switzerland</td><td>- </td><td>Slovakia</td><td>0-1</td></tr></tbody></table>
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