The leading scorer heading into the semifinals at the 2017 IIHF Women's World Championships isn't any of the usual suspects. It is not last year's points leader Hilary Knight, not the perpetually dangerous Marie-Philip Poulin, and not Swiss star and University of Minnesota-Duluth standout Lara Stalder. Instead, it's Team Finland's Susanna Tapani.
Tapani, 24, has three goals and five assists for a total of eight points across Finland's four group play games in Plymouth. Two of those games - April 1, against Canada and April 3, against Sweden - were mutli-point affairs for her. She earned a goal and two assists both nights, firmly establishing herself as a name to watch heading into tomorrow’s semifinal and beyond. She’s already more than doubled her points total from her last Worlds appearance with two fewer games under her belt. To add to her success this tournament, she earned Player of the Game honors on April 1 alongside Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin.
A World Ringette Champion
Tapani's strengths don't just come from hockey, though. While being a world-class center has earned her two World Championship bronze medals and one Olympic appearance, she's also earned gold as a two-time World Ringette Champion. She captained Team Finland to their most recent gold medal on home ice in Helsinki in 2016. That achievement earned her an invitation to the annual Independence Day Reception at the presidential palace, arguably the biggest Finnish social event of the year.
A native of Laitila in southwestern Finland, Tapani made her IIHF World Championship debut in 2011, a year after winning her first ringette gold. She spent one season at the University of North Dakota before opting to return home. She continues to pursue higher education, in addition to playing both club hockey and club ringette.
Since ringette is also played on ice and requires a high agility level, Tapani credits the symbiotic relationship of her skill sets for her success. She explained to Helsingin Sanomat, "I try to be the same in both games...ice skating is my strength, and I make it more visible in hockey.”
After missing the 2016 World Championships due to her other sporting commitments, Tapani is back with a vengeance. She, like the rest of this Naisleijonat team, is brimming with confidence, and they're hungry to see it pay off. They made history once this tournament, becoming the first non-American team to beat Canada in Worlds. Going into this semifinal round, they hope to do it again.