2018 Four Nations Cup Preview: Finland
The Finns are favorites for bronze, but can they do better?
If there was any doubt that Finland was the European team closest to challenging Canada and the United States for silver before Korea, it’s long gone now. The Naisleijonat enter this year’s Four Nations Cup with memories of earning bronze at the Pyeongchang Games still fresh in their minds. The Finns have talent throughout their lineup and their roster boasts some of the most capable players in the world.
Finland has won bronze in the last three Four Nations Cups and is the only team outside of North America to ever win silver.
- Tuesday Nov. 6 | USA vs Finland - 12:00 p.m. CST
- Wednesday, Nov. 7 | Finland vs Sweden - 3:00 p.m. CST
- Friday, Nov. 9 | Canada vs Finland - 7:30 p.m. CST/
- Saturday, Nov. 10 | Bronze and Gold Medal Games - 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. CST/
At the 2018 Olympics, the Finns’ 11.26 shooting percentage was the highest of the tournament, but that had more to do with their balanced attack and the quality of their competition than it had to do with Finland punching above its weight in the offensive zone. Thanks in large part to playing in Group A, Finland’s 25.17 SF60 (shots for, per 60 minutes) was eclipsed by their 30.0 SA60 in Pyeongchang.
When Finland and Sweden met at the 2018 Olympics, the Finns crushed them 7-2 and forced the Swedes to take two penalties in each period. At 4 Nations, the Finns will be looking to re-establish their dominance over Sweden. It’s only fitting that their first true game of the tournament is against Damkronorna.
It will also be interesting to see if some of Finland’s younger players start working their way into the lineup and into larger roles. The 2018 4 Nations Cup marks the beginning of a new Olympic cycle and Finland’s roster at Pyeongchang 2018 had nine players — eight skaters and Noora Räty — who were born before 1990. This tournament marks a unique opportunity for Finland’s next wave of talent to make a name for themselves, but this is by no means an easy roster to crack.
|7||Susanna Tapani||Forward||2||Isa Rahunen||Defence|
|9||Venla Hovi||Forward||4||Rosa Lindstedt||Defence|
|11||Annina Rajahuhta||Forward||6||Jenni Hiirikoski||Defence|
|12||Elisa Holopainen||Forward||8||Ronja Savolainen||Defence|
|13||Riikka Välilä||Forward||14||Nelli Laitinen||Defence|
|18||Petra Nieminen||Forward||15||Minnamari Tuominen||Defence|
|19||Tanja Niskanen||Forward||28||Ella Viitasuo||Defence|
|22||Emma Nuutinen||Forward||1||Eveliina Suonpää||Goaltender|
|23||Sanni Hakala||Forward||30||Jenna Silvonen||Goaltender|
|24||Noora Tulus||Forward||31||Noora Räty||Goaltender|
Players to Watch
We can’t talk about Finland without talking about Jenni Hiirikoski. To the surprise of no one, she led the team in average TOI (time on ice) at the 2018 Olympics and was a crucial part of Finland’s bronze medal victory. Much of Finland’s fate at 4 Nations will be decided by how well Hiirikoski and her partner — most likely Rosa Lindstedt or Minttu Tuominen — play in their own zone against the top lines of Sweden, Canada, and the United States.
Hiirikoski had a -1 even strength goal differential against the United States and a -2 goal differential against Canada at the 2018 Olympics. She was also on the ice for Finland’s only even strength goal against Team USA on Feb. 11 and led her team in shots on goal in the tournament. Hiirikoski is Finland’s power play quarterback and top defender in all situations.
Jenni Hiirikoski is the Best Defender in the World
Hovi is currently playing her first season of CWHL hockey with the Calgary Inferno, and although the Inferno have a star-studded lineup she hasn’t gotten lost in the mix. The veteran forward picked up six points in her first six games of the season for Calgary. It was a strong start to her first season of North American professional hockey after she picked up an impressive three primary points at even strength at the 2018 Olympics.
Will some more experience playing with and against elite North American players set the stage for Hovi elevating her game in Saskatoon? We’ll soon find out.
Finland will bring home bronze for the fourth-straight year unless its goaltending and penalty kill is absolutely lights out. If Finland can avoid taking penalties, particularly against Team USA and Team Canada, they could shock the world in Saskatoon. Make no mistake, the odds are stacked against them, but Finland has all the tools it needs to orchestrate an upset at the 4 Nations Cup or at the 2019 Women’s World Championship.