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History Made: Finland defeats Canada, will play for gold medal

KERMIT FLAIL

Ronja Savolainen celebrating her empty-net goal.
Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images

In a beautiful, historic, and all-around glorious victory in front of a 4,300+ crowd, Team Finland defeated Team Canada in the IIHF Women’s Worlds semifinal 4-2 on April 13 and move on to the gold medal game.

“We believed this,” Finnish goaltender and Player of the Game Noora Räty told YLE News. “We had such a good atmosphere in the team and we believed it would be a good day.”

Despite Canada taking an early lead on a goal from Jamie Lee Rattray, the hosts evened the scoresheet at the end of the first with a power play goal from defender Ronja Savolainen. The first period ended at a 1-1 deadlock.

Finland’s special teams in the first period set up a recurring theme throughout the game. Both the penalty kill and efficacy on the power play shone for the full 60 minutes; Finland came into the game with 84.6% success on the penalty kill and blanked all of Canada’s attempts during the match, including a nail-biting 1:48 of being down two players in the second period.

Stalwart? Yes. Staunch? Also yes. Why? BECAUSE SUOMI. coughs Anyway.

Finland captain Jenni Hiirikoski put Finland up 2-1 on the power play at 6:50 in the second after Laura Stacey took a penalty for goaltender interference. Canadian forward Loren Gabel evened the scales just over a minute later. Susanna Tapani proved yet again why she’s one of Finland’s most reliable scorers with a go-ahead goal with just under four minutes in the middle frame and the Naisleijonat took the 3-2 lead into the second intermission.

The third period ticked down. Finland held their lead into the 58th minute. Canada pulled goaltender Shannon Szabados with 1:22 to go. One minute left. 40 seconds.

Ronja Savolainen retrieved the puck after a scramble in front of Noora Räty’s net. She raced down the ice, pursued by a Canadian player.

Goal.

Savolainen’s empty-netter sealed the deal and made history. Not only did FInland earn their first trip to the gold medal game, they also dispatched almost three decades of North American dominance in the final. For the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1990, a team other than the United States or Canada will play for the world championship. It’s no wonder head coach Pasi Mustonen decided to kiss the ice.

The Naisleijonat seized their moment in front of a home crowd in Espoo. This is the hungry and confident team previewed. This is the team standing on the shoulders of giants like the legendary Marianne Ihalainen, who had her number 9 retired in a pregame ceremony, the first woman to have her number lifted to the national team rafters.

Mika Kylmäniemi

Like it or not (and really, do love it, want some more of it), this is a great day for women’s hockey. The Lionesses have roared.

Team Finland takes on the winner of USA-Russia for the World Championship gold on April 14 at 1 pm ET.