Finland hosted the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Espoo. It was the first time in a decade the tournament had been held there (Hameenlinna 2009), and the Finns felt confident they could put on a show for their fans.
“That will be so awesome to play there and have the home crowd behind us,” captain Jenni Hiirikoski enthused in the leadup to the tournament. “Of course, we want to succeed there. And it would be nice to help the younger players to come into the national team.”
Finland had won bronze at the 2018 Olympics as well as the 2017 Women’s Worlds in Plymouth, an event that held a special place in their hearts because they beat Canada, 4-3, during the preliminary round. The impossible was now possible, and with that win they felt equally that they could also beat the United States sooner rather than later.
But the 2019 WW started out unhappily predictably for Suomi. They beat the two teams they expected to beat – Russia and Switzerland – but lost 6-2 to the U.S. and 6-1 to Canada.
Same old, same old.
In the quarter-finals they handled the Czechs, 3-1, and that set up a semi-finals showdown with Canada. The Canadians got an early goal, but Ronja Savolainen tied it late in the period. In the second, the Finns went up on a goal from Hiirikoski, only to see Loren Gabel tie it for Canada a minute later.
Despite being badly outshot in that middle period, Susanna Tapani scored the only other goal, giving Finland a 3-2 lead while Noora Raty was fantastic in the Finland goal.
Undaunted, Canada came out and dominated the third, but it couldn’t get another puck past Raty. Savolainen scored an empty netter, and Finland had made history. Finland defeated Canada in a playoff game for the first time. And, for the first time in 29 years of Women’s Worlds play, the gold medal game would not feature the two North American teams. The Finns wrote history, no matter what would come.
Buoyed and confident, the Finns gave the Americans the same kind of game in the finals – tenacious, confident, fighting. The U.S. outshot the hosts by a 2 to 1 margin, but teams split goals in the second period only, sending the game to overtime with the score 1-1 after 60 minutes.
Midway through the 20-minute overtime, Petra Nieminen put the puck into the American net, and the Finnish bench emptied. It appeared the Finns had won a stunning gold, making more history on home ice, but the goal was sent upstairs to video review.
Unfortunately for the host nation, the video-goal judge ruled goalie interference on the play. The Finns had to compose themselves, retrieve their equipment, and continue playing. The rest of the sudden-death period was scoreless, and teams went to the penalty-shot shootout.
Amanda Kessel and Annie Pankowski scored for the U.S. while only Minnamari Tuominen scored for Finland. When Alex Rigsby stopped Tapani with the final shot, the Americans were once again world champions.
The ending was heart-breaking for Finland, but the team had made history all the same, taking a silver medal and coming within a split decision of winning gold.
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