Hi! Welcome to 2019. I’m glad you’ve made it through the new year’s first couple of weeks. This year’s mood is harmless, earnest cheerfulness that reserves the option to curb stomp anyone who tries to ruin that for us. Love wholeheartedly, use privilege for the good of others, jam out to some sweet tunes, and remember that incremental progress is still progress, okay?
Okay. Good. Now, to the news!
The IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship concluded January 13 in Obihiro, Japan. Finland and Sweden finished third and fifth respectively. Finland shut out Russia 3-0 to take a decisive third-place finish, while Sweden defeated Switzerland 2-1 in their final game.
The tournament was a success for Finland in particular; the 2019 bronze is their first medal in eight years and their second in the U18’s twelve tournaments. Good things are happening in Finnish women’s hockey at all levels and the next generation is beginning to step up as the country’s development continues. Forward Elisa Holopainen, 17, finished first in tournament scoring with five goals, including the dramatic quarterfinal overtime winner, and three assists over six games. Look for her, Viivi Vainikka, and Nelli Laitinen to compete for roster spots at the World Championships with the senior team.
Team Kuortane forward Emilia Vesa was named the Naisten Liiga Player of the Month for December. The selection committee praised her for putting in big minutes with her club team, showing good development progress throughout autumn, and acclimating well to increased on-ice responsibility.
Vesa, 18, is one of 10 Team Kuortane players to have just won bronze with Team Finland in Japan.
The SDHL resumed play January 5 after a short holiday break. After this past weekend’s action, Luleå Hockey/MSSK sits at first in the league with 69 points. They’ve played 27 games, the least of any team in the league.
AIK goaltender Minatsu Murase returned to active duty on January 6, her first game since the Olympics last February and the birth of her son Caspian in the fall. She got her first victory on January 13 over Brynäs, stopping 17 of 21 shots in AIK’s 5-4 win.
Minatsu Murase är tillbaka i AIK tröjan, läs mer på hemsida pic.twitter.com/C01CNRAAuc— AIK Hockey Dam (@AIKHockeyDam) December 20, 2018
Linköping forward Lara Stalder will miss the rest of the season to undergo shoulder surgery. Stalder, 24, was initially injured in November, only to come back and exacerbate it against HV71, the same team that sent her out to begin with. SVT Sport reported on January 7 that she’s had ongoing shoulder issues and spent the summer rehabbing; it sounds as if surgery was the last-ditch option and now it’s unavoidable.
This is just about the worst possible news Linköping could get. They finished second in the league last year only to falter out of the gate, and now, after managing to correct their course, they lose one of their top scorers. It’s just not their season.
HV71 forward Fanny Rask was suspended a whopping seven games for a head check against Leksand’s Anna Borgqvist on January 6. She was assessed a two-minute minor on the play. Rask is out until February 1 and will return just in time for HV71’s last regular season game.
This is easily one of the longest (if not THE longest) suspension in league history, certainly the longest I’ve seen since I started covering the SDHL. While I’ve seen questions regarding its severity, the league is taking head hits and concussion safety very seriously. That’s something worth commending.
Nordic Players Abroad
Mercyhurst forward Emma Nuutinen was awarded CHA Player Of The Week for January 7 after scoring six points in two games. She’s a native of Vantaa, Finland, and has 11 goals and seven assists on the season.