BURLINGTON – Nina Tikkinen scored twice in the third period to help Finland overcome an early 2-0 deficit and beat Russia 5-4 this afternoon at the Gutterson Fieldhouse. The game was punctuated by a sensational goal from Russia's Inna Dyubanok late in the first period.
The win gives Finland three points in the Group A standings, but it carries with it the knowledge that it will take a Herculean effort to make the result count. Finland would have to beat either the United States or Canada to earn a bye to the semi-finals. Otherwise, it will qualify for the quarters later next week.
"We knew they were going to try to rush the puck whenever they could," Tikkinen said. "But we also knew there are risks when they do."
Galina Skiba gave the Russians the early lead, at 3:42, but it was Dyubanok on the power play at 18:30 that caused heads to turn. She got the puck at the blue line on the point and made two sensational toe drag moves a la Rick Nash, and then when she was at the top of Meeri Raisanen’s crease, Dyubanok roofed a lovely backhand over the goalie’s glove.
But although Russia held Finland to just eight shots in the first period, it was a different Suomi team that came out to play the middle 20 minutes. They dominated all over the ice, limiting the Russians to two harmless shots while scoring twice to tie the game.
The first came midway through on a power play as Rosa Lindstedt knocked in a rebound from the crease. The second came courtesy of a determined shift from Karoliina Rantamaki. She had two sensational chances, but the first was stopped by goalie Anna Progova and the second slid through the crease. But Rantamaki persisted, and when she got a third chance in close, she buried it with less than two minutes to play to make it a 2-2 game after 40 minutes.
"We knew we could do better, and we knew we were a better team than the way we played in the first," Tikkinen said.
Teams exchanged quick goals in the third period. Nina Tikkinen scored at 1:05 for the Finns but less than a minute later the Russians tied the game on another pretty effort. Yekaterina Lebedeva cut in goal from the off wing and slid the puck between Raisanen’s pads.
The Finns killed off a power play and then got the go-ahead goal on an even-man rush. Tikkinen simply skated in on goal and beat Prugova to the far side over her blocker. Rantamaki followed quickly to make it a 5-3 game.
Undaunted, the Russians got one goal back in quick order from Tatyana Burina, but hey couldn't get the equalizer.
"We were a little bit nervous at first," acknowledged Rintamaki, "and we didn't skate as we knew we could at the first. We knew they were a tough team."