Don’t underestimate this Finnish team. Just don’t. Their victory against Canada at Worlds this past April came as a shock to everyone but them. They’re eager, they’re prepared, and they believe.
Winger Michelle Karvinen of Luleå HF in the SDHL strikes fear into the hearts of goalies everywhere. She’s one of the Naisleijonat’s best-known forwards, but she’s far from their only weapon up front. Center Linda Välimäki is a threat every time she’s on the ice and has the Naisten Liiga scoring titles to show for it. She was recently named the Naisten Liiga’s Player of the Month for October and leads the league in scoring with 22 points (14 G, 8 A).
Also at center is the ageless, ever-fabulous Riikka Välilä. At 44-years-old she’s still scoring 1.53 points per game for HV71 in the SDHL and earning a spot on the top line alongside Karvinen and Susanna Tapani.
Semi-seriously referred to as Välilä’s apprentice is Petra Nieminen, the Naisleijonat’s youngest player. She continues her battle for an Olympic roster spot as she makes her second 4 Nations Cup appearance. Despite being only 18-years-old Nieminen’s international resume boasts four years’ worth of international experience, a World Championship bronze medal, and accolades from her veteran teammates. Look out for her now and for years to come as her play develops.
Finland's blue line is a formidable brew of size and skill, veteran presence and up-and-coming talent. Naisleijonat captain Jenni Hiirikoski is a generational talent; she's a gifted playmaker who picks up assists left and right without sacrificing her own scoring touch.
Also that top D pairing of Hiirikoski & Rahunen 👀 A lot of talent, leadership, and skill. Captains of their club teams. #Naisleijonat— Meredith Foster (@fosterwrites) November 2, 2017
Defenders Mira Jalosuo and Rosa Lindstedt both stand at six feet or taller. Lindstedt’s production declined last season after transferring from the Naisten Liiga to the SDHL, but she’s already matched her previous total in less than half the number of games.
Finland boasts one of the world’s most formidable goalie duos in Noora Räty and Meeri Räisänen. They’re backed up by 22-year-old Eveliina Suonpää, who was the Naisleijonat’s third goaltender at the Sochi Olympics. Suonpää is capable if called upon. Along with Anni Keisala and Jenna Silvonen, she represents the next generation of elite Finnish goaltending. But expect Räty and Räisänen to be Finland’s netminders at 4 Nations.
Silver. This is a hungry Finnish team that's spent the Olympic buildup focusing on development and seeing it pay off. Look for them to make a splash in their last major tournament before PyeongChang.