STOCKHOLM – Sweden against Finland is a classic hockey rivalry, and currently it is the women that are adding fuel to the rivalries’ fire. When the nations meet on the women’s stage, more often than not, the top team in Europe is decided.
History favours Finland. They won nine bronze medals in World Women’s Championships, while Sweden has just two. But the Sweden is stronger on the Olympic stage with two medals, including a historic silver at the 2006 Olympics in Torino. It was the highest-ever finish for a European hockey women’s team at the Games or the Worlds.
At the Hockey Canada Cup in Vancouver in September, Sweden beat Finland in the preliminary round, 3-1, but Finland won the bronze-medal game, 1-0.
Last weekend it was time for their next meeting when Sweden hosted a tournament with the two nations in addition to Russia and Germany in Stockholm. It was no surprise that the tournament came down to the final game between the Nordic nations.
Sweden beat Russia, 2-1, and Germany, 4-1. Finland, which was missing several key players that will join the team for the international break in two weeks, had closer games with a 2-1 victory against Germany and a 4-3 shootout win versus Russia.
Sweden went into the final game as the favourite, but the game was scoreless until the 55th minute when Gunilla Andersson scored the lone goal of the game for Sweden.
This duel went to Sweden, but the next will soon follow when Finland hosts a four-nation tournament with Canada, Sweden and the United States, November 3-7. The Finland-Sweden game will be held in the country’s biggest arena, the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.
“The tournament in Sweden, our exhibition game against Canada on November first and the tournament in Finland are very important to prepare for the Olympics,” said Sweden head coach Peter Elander. “The players know that the decision whether they will be called for Vancouver or not will fall now.”
Russia took third place with a 4-1 victory against Germany.
The German team had a tough time in Stockholm. After getting relegated to Division I and missing the Olympic qualification, the Germans are rebuilding with a young team and an average age of 18. The Germans ended up winless and were out-shot nearly three-to-one.