Finland came to the Four Nations Cup with high expectations.
And then they got sick.
The Naisleijonat were ravaged by illness all week long as players came down with the stomach flu one after the other. They didn’t ice a full roster all week, starting in game one against Team USA with only 10 forwards and six defenders. Forward Jenniina Nylund, a freshman at St. Cloud State, was called to international duty on an emergency basis and her equipment was lost along the way.
Adding to Finland’s woes was the absence of some top scorers. Michelle Karvinen of Luleå Hockey/MSSK made the trip to Saskatoon but didn’t actually play for undisclosed reasons. Ilves captain Linda Välimäki opted to remain in Finland to stay with her ailing father. Susanna Tapani only played in a preliminary game against Canada and was seen on crutches later in the week via a teammate’s Instagram story.
Murphy’s Law holds that if it can go wrong, it will. It did.
Now, for the good news.
Finland won bronze anyway, on the back of some gutsy (sorry) performances. They faced longtime rivals Sweden in the final and came out with a 4-2 victory despite trailing into the third period. They came back to score three quick goals in under five minutes to take their fourth consecutive bronze medal.
Despite four games’ worth of short benches, exhaustion, and contagions they gritted it out with enough heart and truculence to make Brian Burke spit hyperbole for days.
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“The Theory of “Grit” as a Predictor of Success in Life. Beyond IQ , talent, and whatever else has any kind of effect on anything, what most affects your ability to achieve your goals is grit. Grit is a combination of passion and perseverance, a belief that failure can be overcome.” . 🇫🇮🇫🇮 🇫🇮🇫🇮 . This group showed a lot of GRIT in the past week when player after player we went down with a flu. We handled the adversity, and finished the tourney strong with a W. Until next time time 🦁-family💙! . . 🇫🇮🇫🇮 🇫🇮🇫🇮 . #Leijonat #4nationscup #Hockey #Sports #Icehockey #Fitness #Finland #Womenshockey #Womenssports #Athlete
Finland’s special teams deserve a great deal of praise and earned their places at the top of the tournament. The Naisleijonat’s penalty kill in particular had a remarkable showing with a cool 100% success, while the power play saw 14.29%.
In net, it should go without saying by now that Noora Räty is an elite generational talent. If she was a North American man she’d be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee when her career is over. She reiterated her status and then some, backstopping her team when they needed it most and finished with a .933 save percentage over three games.
Final Grade: A. This tournament is a what-could-have-been for Finland, but they came through and left happy.