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The Nordic News: Jul, Joulu, Christmas

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 10 Photo by Matt Slocum-Pool/Getty Images

Hello and welcome to the second edition of The Nordic News! It’s been a busy couple of weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday. Your humble proprietor is headed off on an adventure and will return in time for the next installment.

National Teams

Both Finland and Sweden announced their 2019 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship rosters. The tournament starts on Jan. 6 in Obihiro, Japan.

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 11 - Finland v Russia Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

The winter leg of the Euro Hockey Tour was played in Finland last week, with the Naisleijonat victorious on home ice. A confident Finland dominated all tournament long. Forward Michelle Karvinen was the tournament’s top scorer with her six points (two goals, four assists) in two games played. Her Luleå Hockey/MSSK teammate Ronja Savolainen finished second with five points, one goal and four assists.

The Naisleijonat’s goaltenders shone as brightly as the skaters. Meeri Räisänen shut out Team Sweden on Dec. 13 and made 21 saves against Germany the next day. Räisänen, 29, is making a well-deserved name for herself in the NWHL this season while keeping her national team status intact. She served as the starter and veteran this tournament, backed up by up-and-comers Jenna Silvonen and Johanna Oksman.

Meanwhile, the Damkronorna finished third behind Finland and Germany. They started the tournament with a 4-2 loss against Germany but rebounded beautifully to shut out Switzerland with a 7-0 win. Olympic goaltender Sara Grahn returned to Sweden’s net for the first time since PyeongChang, but it was her understudy Julia Åberg who took the shutout win. Åberg, 22, was a late addition to the Swedish roster after Anna Amholt suffered a concussion late last month.

Hanna Olsson, 19, is one of Sweden’s most promising young wingers. She had a hat trick against Switzerland and finished third in tournament scoring. As a University of North Dakota commit her NCAA career was stalled before it started, but her game continues to develop in the SDHL and she finished third in tournament scoring. Look for her to be an offensive force for years to come.

Damkronorna Head Coach Ylva Martinsen spoke positively about the way her team and her vision are gelling so far: “We are building a belief in what we are doing,” she told HockeySverige. ”The players respond very well to the work we want them to do and the work environment we are creating.”

SDHL

The Euro Hockey Tour dealt another blow to eighth-place AIK with forward Sabina Küller sustaining an injury and returning to Sweden early. The team may see a ray of hope in goal, though, as Olympic netminder Minatsu Murase announced her return from maternity leave. The team needs help at all positions, but with Anna Amholt out with a concussion and Amanda Johansson headed to Japan with the Swedish U18 team, Murase’s return can’t come soon enough.

Linköping announced they’ve terminated their contract with Canadian forward Lauren Spring. The joint agreement comes after Spring returned home to Canada to rehab an injury. She played just five games this season.

After a shaky start to the season Linköping head into the Christmas break riding a seven-game win streak. As I wrote during the November international break, they’ll be just fine.

Naisten Liiga

The race for first place is airtight heading into the Christmas break. Only five points span the top three: the Espoo Blues lead with 44, followed by Ilves with 42 and KalPa with 39.

On the opposite end of the spectrum sit KJT Huakat, who remain winless in regulation after 18 games played. Each of their two points came in overtime losses.

Nordic Players Abroad

KRS Shenzhen Vanke Rays goaltender Noora Raty was named to the 2019 CWHL All-Star Game on Dec. 7. She’ll be the first Finnish player in the game’s history.

Whether or not her head arrives on the correct body has yet to be seen.