STOCKHOLM – The battle for bronze was exactly that, a battle. The teams left everything on the ice, but when all was said and done, the bronze medals were hanging around the Finns’ necks, after a 3-0 win over the Czech Republic.
Susanna Tapani scored one and added two assists, Milla Heikkinen got two points and Isabella Portnoj made 26 saves for a shutout for Finland.
"I felt in the morning that it was going to be a good game. I liked the way I was moving my feet," said Tapani, one of a handful of players on the young Finland team who won't be returning next year.
"We felt that we had nothing to lose. A fourth place would also have been our best finish ever, but of course it's a hundred times better to win a medal than to finish fourth. This is amazing," she added.
The first period gave the Stora Mossen crowd a taste of what was to come. The Finns rolled one attack after another towards the Czech goal, bombarding Veronika Hladikova, back in goal, with shots while the Czechs tried to create scoring chances with quick counter attacks. Finland outshot the Czech Republic 11-5 in the first period.
At 11:26, Susanna Tapani, Finland’s leading scorer in the tournament, gave her team the lead with a wrist shot from a close range, off a feed by Milla Heikkinen. The goal was Tapani’s fourth in the tournament.
Just 1:24 into the second period, Adela Kubatova took a two-minute penalty for body checking and Finland’s first powerplay unit got to work. Tapani played the puck to Jenni Oinonen on the point and her slap shot cut through traffic in front of Hladikova and beat the Czech goalie low on the stick side, to give Finland a 2-0 lead and a firmer grip on the bronze medals.
Five and a half minutes into the period, Heikkinen and Tapani cycled the puck down in the Czech corner. Tapani fired a wrist shot from the faceoff circle and as Hladikova made a save, the rebound went straight to Saana Valkama, who had an easy task to make it 3-0 for Finland at 5:40.
The third period was goalless, and with the Finnish fans counting down the final seconds, the Finnish players threw their helmets, and gloves, and built a pile of blue in front of their goal.
"It's a ruthless system. We had to win our third game against Switzerland to avoid the relegation round, and now we're here with a medal," Tapani said.