Remembering last year’s loss at the Women’s Worlds, Canada came out firing on all cylinders and took advantage of some weak defence by the Finns, winning 4-1.
The result moves Canada to 2-0 at these Olympics. With the loss, the Finns fall to 0-2.
Shots favoured Canada 32-23, but the margin of dominance was much greater excpet for a few brief moments in the third when Finland played its best. The game was a disappointment for the Finns given how well they played against the U.S. in a narrow 3-1 loss two days ago.
“We played a solid 60 minutes, the whole team last game,” said Finnish forward Riikka Välilä (née Nieminen). Okay, USA had the puck possession, and they are a really good team, but we could keep up with their tempo and really try to win the game. But today we weren’t even close.”
“I think the team’s in a good spot right now,” offered goalie Shannon Szabados. “We have some amazing forawrds with some poise and some patience and some great shots. I’m not really surprised with what they’ve been doing. We’ve just got to keep that moving forward.”
Canada got just the start it needed, scoring on the first shift of the game. Isa Rahunen made a bad pass coming out of her end, and it was picked off by Mélodie Daoust. She was quickly joined by Meghan Agosta to create a two-on-one, and Daoust’s pass across was perfect. Agosta counted the goal at 35 seconds.
“I just thought that the defenceman was coming for me, so I tried to hang a little bit more to drag that goalie out of her crease, and Agosta was just coming off the post with her stick down, which we talked about a lot with the coaches. She did that perfectly,” Daoust said of the goal.
“I think the biggest thing with Noora being an experienced player and having played her a lot in the past, it’s getting to her early,” Agosta noted. “She played a really good game, but I just think the biggest thing for us was getting at her early and burying those chances that we had.”
Although the Canadians were the better team, Finland didn’t lay down in easy defeat. It battled physically all period long and nearly tied the score midway through when Rosa Lindstedt wired a shot off the post in behind Shannon Szabados.
The Canadians added a second goal on a tough break for another Finnish defender, Jenni Hiirikoski, the best in the world at her position. Skating out in front of her net, she looked up ice at the exact moment the puck hit a pebble in the ice and bounced over her stick. Marie-Philip Poulin was right there and made a nice move on Räty before back-handing a high shot in for a 2-0 lead.
“There are no excuses,” Hiirikoski said. “Canada was really good today, and we weren’t there in the beginning. We had two really difficult periods.”
Canada thought it had scored a third goal with 4.5 seconds left in the period, on a power play, but video review denied the goal.
Relentless can’t begin to describe Canada’s continued play in the second. The Olympic champions made it 3-0 all the same at 8:18 off a nice pass to the middle by Laura Fortino to Daoust. She faked a shot to give her a clear view of Räty, then snapped a low drive to the stick side.
Then, at 18:26, the Canadians made it 4-0, capitalizing on a bad line change by the Finns. Jillian Saulnier went in alone on Räty and hit the same spot as Daoust on her goal a few minutes earlier, the 4-0 score line now giving the team plenty of breathing room.
Riikka Välilä got the Finns on the board at 7:17 of the third off a scramble in front. The 44-year-old is now the oldest woman to score a goal in either the Olympics or Women’s Worlds. Unfortunately, it was too little too late for Suomi.
“We didn’t play well in those first two periods,” Välilä said. “But we really talked in the second intermission that we had to step it up. We could do it. It was good we got those last 20 minutes in a good way. But that’s not enough when you play against Canada, for sure.”
Soon after Välilä’s shutout-breaker, Susanna Tapani showed Morenz-like speed, flying past two Canadian defenders through the middle to create a breakaway only to be stoned by Szabados in the end.
Coach Pasi Mustonen pulled Räty with just under four minutes to play, but the extra skater had no effect on the game’s outcome.
Canada finishes its round robin with a much-anticipated battle against the United States on Thursday afternoon, after which the Finns play the Olympic Athletes from Russia. All four nations in Group A advance to the playoffs, but these games will determine which earn a bye directly to the semi-finals and which have to play an extra game in the quarters.
IHLC: With the win, Canada wins their seventh straight in their 34th and current International Hockey Lineal Championship reign, which they won in an exhibition game over the United States in December and retained with four straight exhibition wins, and their Olympic opener against the Olympic Athletes From Russia, a 5-0 victory. The win improves Canada to 47-0-1 all-time against the Naisleijonat, their first tilt since a 5-1 victory in Florida last November just prior to the 2017 Four Nations Cup. Canada will now round out Group A against the U.S., with the winner clinching Group A and carrying the IHLC directly into the Semifinals.
00:35 – GOAL – Agosta (Daoust)
03:32 – PEN – Tapani, body checking
05:22 – PEN – Spooner, body checking
11:19 – PEN – Wakefield, slashing
17:11 – GOAL – Poulin
18:52 – PEN – Rahunen, holding
28:19 – GOAL – Daoust (Fortino, Agosta)
35:17 – PEN – team, too many players
38:26 – GOAL – Saulnier (Johnston)
39:43 – PEN – Clark, slashing
42:22 – PEN – Säkkinen, body checking
47:17 – GOAL – R. Nieminen (Tapani, Karvinen)
48:08 – PEN – Savolainen, body checking
50:10 – PEN – Välimäki, cross checking
W: Szabados (22-23)
L: Räty (28-32)
SHOTS ON GOAL
14+10+8 = 32
5+5+13 = 23
Goaltenders: Geneviève Lacasse, Shannon Szabados. Defence: Renata Fast, Laura Fortino, Brigette Lacquette, Jocelyne Larocque (A), Meaghan Mikkelson, Lauriane Rougeau. Forwards: Meghan Agosta, Bailey Bram, Emily Clark, Mélodie Daoust, Haley Irwin, Brianne Jenner (A), Rebecca Johnston, Sarah Nurse, Marie-Philip Poulin (C), Jillian Saulnier, Natalie Spooner, Laura Stacey, Blayre Turnbull, Jennifer Wakefield.
Goaltenders: Meeri Räisänen, Noora Räty. Defence: Jenni Hiirikoski (C), Mira Jalosuo, Rosa Lindstedt, Isa Rahunen, Ronja Savolainen, Minnamari Tuominen, Ella Viitasuo. Forwards: Sanni Hakala, Venla Hovi, Michelle Karvinen (A), Petra Nieminen, Riikka Nieminen (A), Tanja Niskanen, Emma Nuutinen, Annina Rajahuhta, Saila Saari, Sara Säkkinen, Susanna Tapani, Noora Tulus, Linda Välimäki.