Finland made Olympic women’s hockey history on Wednesday, becoming the first team to repeat as bronze medal winners with a 4-0 win over Switzerland. It was quite the turnaround for the Finns, who bounced back from losing their first three games of the tournament to take home bronze. They were dominant for the full 60 minutes against the Swiss, who put up a valiant effort but were simply overmatched by Finland’s depth and skill in this one.
Finland: Viivi Vainikka, Susanna Tapani, Nelli Laitinen, Michelle Karvinen
Vainikka got the scoring started for the Finns in the first period, cashing in on a rebound in front of Andrea Brändli’s crease. Vainikka is one of Finland’s rising young stars and was buzzing all game for the Finns. It was a particularly important first goal for the team, considering how their round-robin matchup went against the Swiss. After losing to both the U.S. and Canada and not playing their best, Finland also very unexpectedly dropped their Group A to Switzerland, 3-2. They fell behind in that one, 3-1, to start.
It was a huge win for Switzerland and a disappointing loss for Finland. They needed a better, more assertive start to this game, and they got it thanks to Vainikka’s goal. In total, they outshot Switzerland 13-6 in the first period.
Lena Marie Lutz had a great chance to tie it for the Swiss on a breakaway in the second period, but Finland goaltender Anni Keisala shut the door on her. Keisala deserves a shoutout for her play in the Olympics after a bit of a rough start for the team, and a goaltending controversy that was by no means her fault at all. She made 15 saves total to earn the shutout against the Swiss.
Finland continued to dominated in the middle frame, piling up 21 shots on Brändli at the other end, but she stood tall to keep it a one-goal game.
The Finns’ skill finally wore down the Swiss and broke the game open in the third period. After taking a too-many-players penalty, Finland found themselves shorthanded, but Tapani came up with a big shot block to force a two-on-one the other way. She opted to shoot it herself and ripped a great goal past Brändli for the 2-0 lead. Then, on a power play of their own, Nelli Laitinen put the Finns up 3-0 with about five minutes to go.
Michelle Karvinen tacked on an extra goal for the 4-0 lead in the final minute of play, which felt like a fitting end to this one—at least, it was enough to stir up the faint whispers of joy in even my cold, black heart at 8 a.m. Players like Karvinen, Tapani, Jenni Hiirikoski, and Minnimari Tuominen have been at the core of this Finnish team for so long, and they’re still playing well upwards of 20 minutes in the most important game on the most important stage for the team—and coming through after a tough start to win a medal. We won’t get to see them do their thing forever, but it sure is special every time we do.