Dam Good: Lulea’s Jenni Hiirikoski starts off scoring

The first in our new weekly SDHL column.

Hockey can be a cruel game. That frozen cylinder we call a puck can have a mind of its own and sometimes it makes its mind up to spoil the efforts of the most dedicated and talented players.

Jenni Hiirikoski was scoreless in her first 12 games of the 2019-20 season — an alarming way to start the year for a player who scored 19 goals in 34 games in 2018-19. When Hiirikoski finally broke through in her 13th game of the season, she was leading the SDHL with 91 shots but only had one goal to show for it. That 1.09 shooting percentage at the start of the year sank Hiirikoski’s chances to defend her title as the league’s top-scoring blueliner for a fourth consecutive year.

Yep, hockey can be cruel. Thankfully, it can also be kind.

The 2020-21 SDHL campaign is underway and a much-changed Luleå Hockey/MSSK is off to a 2-0-0 start thanks to six points from Hiirikoski in two games. The Finnish wonder has two goals on 10 shots to start the year — a far cry from her start a year ago. Aren’t small sample sizes, puck luck, and unsustainable shooting percentages fun?

The big picture here is that Hiirikoski, 33, is still one of the best players in the world. Piling up four points against Göteborg in the second game of the season is a surefire way to start the year off on the right foot. Don’t overlook how important a hot start could be for Hiirikoski and her team. This team no longer has Michelle Karvinen and is without Petra Nieminen because of an injury. This big start for Hiirikoski is good news Luleå — and bad news for the rest of the SDHL.

Three Crowns

Here are three performances worthy of hardware from the last week of SDHL action.

1. Kateřina Mrázová had four primary points — three of which were assists — in her first game of the 2020-21 season. So, she’s picking right up from where she left off last year when she had 36 assists in 34 games for Brynäs.

2. SDE’s Lindsey Post started the year with a 53-save shutout against Djurgården to start her second year of SDHL hockey and followed that all-time classic performance with a 42-save performance against Linköping a 1-0 loss. That’s 95 saves in 118:55 minutes of hockey. Post had a .941 save percentage 19 appearances in 2019-20. She’s SDE’s best chance of finishing the year above .500 this year.

3. Viivi Vainikka has begun her SDHL career with two goals in two games for Luleå. Vainikka, 18, spent the last five seasons in the Naisten Liiga before making the jump to the SDHL. She had four points in seven games at the 2019 Worlds to help Team Finland secure a historic silver medal and a stunning 28 goals in 30 games last season in the Naisten Liiga with Kuortane. She’s a fun bet for the SDHL’s rookie of the year.

Standings as of 9/15/20

1Luleå HF220011:0 (11)600
2Linköping HC22004:2 (2)600
3Brynäs IF11007:2 (5)300
4SDE HF21014:1 (3)300
5MODO Hockey21016:4 (2)300
6Djurgårdens IF21013:5 (-2)300
6HV 7121013:5 (-2)300
8AIK20023:6 (-3)000