Back to the future
by Risto Pakarinen|14 JAN 2023
Canada's Alex Law attempts to deflect the puck past Finland's Kerttu Kuja-Halkola while Aino Krook defends.
photo: Chris Tanouye / IIHF
The Finns only managed to score twice in their three preliminary round games. Once against the Americans, once in the game against Sweden, and not at all in the game against Canada. 
Not only that, but Canada also outshot Finland 48-9 in the game, and, well, there’s no need to go deeper into the statistical analysis than that, although, rest assured Finland’s coach Mira Kuisma will turn every stone to find something positive for the team to think about. 
You know what they say about the importance of having a short memory. “Be a goldfish,” says Ted Lasso. 
However, the Finns may want to fire up a DeLorean, go nine days back in time, to the day when they beat Canada 4-3 at the pre-Worlds camp in Stockholm and then, get back – back to the future knowing that it can be done. 
It won’t be easy, though. 
Canada’s play doesn’t have many weaknesses. They beat the Finns in every statistical category. They have a better shooting accuracy, the team’s powerplay chugs along at a good 23-percent pace, the penalty kill has only let in one goal on 16 attempts, and their team save percentage is number one in the tournament, 95.38 (compared to Finland’s 84.7). 
Of all the four teams in the semi-final, Team Canada is also the one that has spread the ice time most evenly, even though defender Ava Murphy has averaged 21.32 in the tournament. Eleven players average between 14 and 20 minutes a game, which allows the Canadians to keep their shifts short - the highest average shift length is Charlotte Pieckenhagen’s 45 seconds – and the game intensity high. 
As a result, thirteen different Canadians have got on the scoresheet. 
Everything the Canadians do, they do it with high intensity. The defense doesn’t waste any time getting the puck out of the zone. The first pass is hard and on the tape, and the defenders join the attack. Team Canada also has big players in the defense: Emma Venusio is the only defender under 170cm while Finnish offense – and forecheck – is on the smaller side, with six players under 165cm. 
The Finns have big bodies on the blueline – Nella Berg is 175cm, Tuuli Tallinen 177cm – but they also have three defenders that are under 165cm. 
But, as they say, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. And that’s something the Finns subscribe to. 
“Sisu,” was Pauliina Salonen’s short answer to how they’ll beat Canada. “And sisu is something we Finns have.”
Sisu is a famous Finnish word for perseverance, grit, and fighting spirit and its powers have been demonstrated in hockey rinks many times over the years. 
Finland’s challenge is that Canada has some of that sisu, too, and they have world-class talent. Caitlin Kraemer has six goals in three games, Emma Pais has four points in three games, Alex Law four points in just two games. 
However, just seven months ago, Canada squeaked by Finland with a 2-1 win in the semi-final of the under-18 Women’s Worlds. 
Finland’s tying goal in that tournament was scored by Tilli Keranen, assisted by Salonen and Sanni Vanhanen. All three are back and carried the team into the semi-final. Will they still have some gas in the tank to take the team one step further? Coach Kuisma put Salonen – who started the tournament centering the second line – on Vanhanen’s wing in the game against Sweden, and she’s behind all four goals the team has scored in the tournament. Salonen (who wasn’t awarded an assist to Vanhanen’s game-tying goal in the quarter-final), has three points in four games as does Vanhanen. 
 A red-hot first line, sisu, and a superb goalie performance may be enough. It’s just that Finland hasn’t quite had that this far into the tournament.
A semi-final would be a good time. 
Players to watch: 

Pauliina Salonen, the team’s leading scorer is a ball of energy who took the team on her shoulders in the quarter-final. 
Caitlin Kramer is exactly the kind of player that Finland (or any other team) would want to have on their roster. She’s a strong skater who knows how to score.

Puck drop at 20.00 CET / 2pm ET