Once again, Sarah Fillier lit the fire and her Canadian teammates stoked the blaze. In an 11-1 rout of Finland, the preternaturally gifted 21-year-old Olympic rookie set the early tone with two goals, as she did in the 12-1 shellacking of Switzerland.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this opportunity and I’ve been putting in the work as well as the rest of the girls,” Fillier said. “So putting in two goals today and two goals the other game is good for my confidence and good for the team.”
It was easily Canada’s most lopsided Olympic win over Finland ever. The previous high was a 6-0 win in 2006. There was simply no stopping the red Maple Leaf on Saturday, and right now, there is no doubt that the defending World Champions are favoured to win another Gold medal.
Sarah Nurse and Brianne Jenner both notched hat tricks at the Wukesong Sports Centre, and Natalie Spooner had four assists to take sole possession of the Olympic scoring lead with nine points.
Brianne Jenner and Laura Stacey each scored twice, and Jamie Lee Rattray added a single. Captain Marie-Philip Poulin had three helpers.
Mélodie Daoust, the MVP and leading scorer of the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, missed this game with an upper-body injury she suffered versus the Swiss. The 2014 Olympic Gold medalist is being evaluated day to day and may return later in the tournament. The Canadians didn’t miss a beat as Rattray took Daoust’s place on the line with Fillier and Spooner.
Any way you slice it, this was an extremely disappointing performance by the Finns, who won Bronze at both the last Olympics and last Women’s Worlds. Typically, they keep it closer against Canada.
Veteran Minttu Tuominen, who scored Finland’s lone goal, said wryly: “I was there on the ice probably when they scored seven goals, so it doesn’t really matter if I scored one.”
The Finns upset Canada 4-2 in the 2019 Women’s Worlds semi-finals, the last time they faced each other in IIHF playoff competition. But times have changed. Coach Troy Ryan’s team outshot Finland 48-29.
“We’ve gotten to play them a few times this year and have kinda learned what’s working for us,” Spooner said. “Today, we just stuck with the game plan and were able to get on them early again and then just keep building throughout the game and create a lot of offence.”
It was a different-looking Finnish team than the one that lost 5-2 to the Americans in their Beijing opener on Thursday. Assistant coach Juuso Toivola took over from Pasi Mustonen as head coach, since Mustonen had to return to Finland due to health concerns in his family. Winger Viivi Vainikka, 20, slotted in to make her Olympic debut. Juggling the lineup, Toivola remarkably put 16-year-old forward Sanni Vanhanen on defence.
Veteran Finnish goalie Meeri Räisänen had a rough run in her very first Olympic start at age 32. Räisänen, named the Naisten Liiga’s best goalie three times, was a member of Finland’s Olympic Bronze medal teams in 2014 and 2018 but didn’t get to play. The way this game went raises more questions about the decision to not bring superstar netminder Noora Räty to these Olympics.
“We were as ready as we could have been,” Toivola said. “There are many things going on, but we’ll get through it and next game will be much better. Canada was really strong today and we really weren’t good enough. We really just have to forget about this game and move on to the next one [versus Switzerland on Monday].”
With 28 saves, Canadian netminder Ann-Renée Desbiens won her second straight start after making 14 saves versus Switzerland.
Of facing the ROC team on Monday and the defending Olympic champion United States on Tuesday, Spooner said: “Every game, we just wanna keep building and trying to play our game and not play to our opponents’ game. If we can just keep improving, we set ourselves up good for when we get to that U.S. game, then the quarters, semis and finals.”
Canada came out with strong pressure and it paid off. In the offensive zone, they dominated Finland below the goal line. They also found ways to capitalize on the rush. The Finns ran out of gas as the game wore on.
As against Switzerland, Fillier drew first blood just over a minute in. A forechecking Spooner grabbed the puck below the goal line and backhanded it to the Princeton captain, who lifted one home from the right faceoff circle. It was Canada’s first shot on goal.
“She’s got an amazing shot, so if I can ever get the puck on her stick and let her shoot it, most of the time it’s gonna go in,” Spooner said.
“I have a front row seat to greatness everyday,” Rattray said of Fillier. “Like, I can’t even! First shift again. You can’t even draw that up in a story. So it’s pretty impressive what she’s doing.”
Räisänen robbed Jenner in close near the eight-minute mark. She also stoned Blayre Turnbull on a shorthanded rush a couple of minutes later. But the Canadians just kept coming.
At 12:45, Nurse made it 2-0. In the Finnish zone, she picked off an ill-advised backhanded pass into the middle by defender Sanni Rantala and unleashed a wicked shot past Räisänen’s glove side.
Tuominen cut the deficit to 2-1 with a seeing-eye wrister from the left point. The four-time Olympian’s shot dinged in off the cross bar through traffic at 18:27. But it wouldn’t mean much.
In a show of pure skill, Fillier worked a give-and-go with Renata Fast to put Canada up 3-1 at 3:22 of the second period. Fillier busted to the net and, while, gliding backwards, picked up Fast’s centering pass that bounced off Vanhanen’s skate and golfed a backhander high to the stick side.
Nurse got her second of the game on a high-tempo rush. Rattray sent the puck across the Finnish zone and Spooner got it back to Nurse, who beat Räisänen high to the glove again. It was the former Toronto Furies’ star’s third career Olympic goal. She also tallied in a 2-1 group-stage win over the U.S. in 2018.
Ryan hailed Nurse’s resilience: “She overcame a bit of an injury this year and all the work she’s put in, as well as our medical staff, sets her up for success. If you look at the goals she’s scoring, they’re all by good positioning, forcing turnovers and then transitioning quick.”
Only 19 seconds later, Jenner put the game out of reach at 5-1. Off the centre-ice faceoff, she took a long pass from Jocelyne Larocque, crossed the blueline, and used Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski as a screen to fool Räisänen. Jenner’s second goal came on a lucky bounce just over three minutes later as she flung the puck toward the net.
“In the second period, I think our offence started to come more and we were able to find those open spots and bury some pucks on their goalie,” Spooner said.
Stacey, whom Räisänen had denied earlier on a partial breakaway, made it 7-1 when her attempted centering pass bounced in off Hiirikoski’s skate at 16:35.
Toivola mercifully replaced Räisänen with Anni Keisala, named Best Goalie at the 2021 Women’s Worlds, to start the third period. But Rattray showed no mercy when she cut in off right wing and roofed a nasty backhander short side for an 8-1 lead.
“I think our focus was really good at the beginning of the game,” Toivola said. “But they kept scoring and scoring and when that happens, it becomes really difficult to keep that focus.”
Nurse completed her hat trick on a nice passing play from Spooner and Erin Ambrose. With under six minutes to play, Jenner and Stacey rounded out the scoring with goals 35 seconds apart.
Asked about areas where Finland needs to improve, Tuominen said: “Definitely our one-on-ones, our D-zone coverage. We also had a couple of chances and we should score on those.”
Canada now boasts a perfect record of seven Olympic wins and an all-time goal difference of 40-7 versus Finland, dating back to 1998.
01:01 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Fillier (Spooner, Thompson)
04:57 – 🇫🇮 PEN – Rantala, body checking
08:44 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Fast, hooking
12:45 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Nurse
14:41 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Maltais, slashing
14:41 – 🇫🇮 PEN – Räisänen, roughing
18:27 – 🇫🇮 GOAL – Tuominen
19:27 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Turnbull, cross checking
23:22 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Fillier (Fast, Spooner)
24:12 – 🇫🇮 PEN – Holopainen, body checking
27:47 – 🇫🇮 PEN – Rantala, interference
30:01 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Nurse (Spooner, Rattray)
31:20 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Jenner (Larocque, Poulin)
34:27 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Jenner (Zandee-Hart, Poulin)
36:35 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Stacey (Maltais, Shelton)
39:09 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Fast, tripping
47:06 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Rattray (Jenner, Bell)
49:33 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Poulin, body checking
53:07 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Nurse (Ambrose, Spooner)
54:10 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Stacey (Shelton, Bell)
54:45 – 🇨🇦 GOAL – Jenner (Clark, Poulin)
57:02 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Poulin, tripping
57:55 – 🇨🇦 PEN – Clark, slashing
W: 🇨🇦 Desbiens (28-29)
L: 🇫🇮 Räisänen (28-35), Kiesala (9-13)
SHOTS ON GOAL
🇨🇦 17+18+13 = 48
🇫🇮 8+6+15 = 29
🇨🇦 Goaltenders: Ann-Renée Desbiens, Emerance Maschmeyer. Defence: Erin Ambrose, Ashton Bell, Renata Fast, Jocelyne Larocque, Ella Shelton, Claire Thompson, Micah Zandee-Hart. Forwards: Emily Clark, Sarah Fillier, Brianne Jenner (A), Rebecca Johnston, Emma Maltais, Sarah Nurse, Marie-Philip Poulin (C), Jamie Lee Rattray, Jillian Saulnier, Natalie Spooner, Laura Stacey, Blayre Turnbull (A).
🇫🇮 Goaltenders: Anni Kiesala, Meeri Räisänen. Defence: Jenni Hiirikoski (C), Sini Karjalainen, Nelli Laitinen, Sanni Rantala, Ronja Savolainen, Minnamari Tuominen, Ella Viitasuo. Forwards: Sanni Hakala, Elisa Holopainen, Michelle Karvinen (A), Julia Liikala, Petra Nieminen (A), Tanja Niskanen, Jenniina Nylund, Sofianna Sundelin, Susanna Tapani, Noora Tulus, Viivi Vainikka, Sanni Vanhanen, Emilia Vesa.
|🇨🇦 CANADA (C)
(since 15 Dec 2021)
|Last Title||09 Nov 2011|
(+ 1 tie)
|First IHLC Meeting (CAN vs. FIN)
🇨🇦 CAN 6-5 FIN 🇫🇮 – 24 Mar 1990 – WWC – Ottawa 🇨🇦
|Previous IHLC Meeting (CAN vs. FIN)
🇨🇦 CAN 5-1 FIN 🇫🇮 – 14 Nov 2021 – EX – Turku 🇫🇮
|Last IHLC Game
🇨🇦 CAN 12-1 SUI 🇨🇭 – 03 Feb 2022 – OG – Beijing 🇨🇳
|Next IHLC Game
🇨🇦 CAN 6-1 ROC 🇷🇺 – 07 Feb 2022 – OG – Beijing 🇨🇳