The Naisten Liiga’s inaugural Aurora Borealis Cup Final matchup is set. Reigning champions Oulun Kärpät, winners of the final SM-Sarja championship in 2017, will face Tampereen Ilves in their bid to repeat.
Kärpät punched their ticket to the finals Sunday with a 3-2 victory over the Espoo Blues at home in Oulu. Blues’ Elviira Ylitalo opened the scoring with the first period’s lone goal at 5:31. All three Kärpät goals came in the second period. Captain Isa Rahunen struck twice in less than a minute to even the score then give her team the 2-1 lead. The Blues tied the game at 2-2 on a power-play tally from Tinja Haukijärvi, but Kärpät left wing Niina Koukkula regained the lead at 18:17.
Both goaltenders kept the door closed for the entire third period. Kärpät emerged with the victory and the 3-2 best-of-five series win.
Both Kärpät and Ilves are coming off of hard-fought semifinal series. The Espoo Blues took Kärpät all the way to a game five, while Kuortane pushed Ilves to two shootouts in their first-ever semifinal appearance. Both of the playoffs’ leading scorers to date, forwards Jenniina Nylund and Petra Nieminen, play for Kuortane, as does the goaltender with the second-highest save percentage, Tiia Pajarinen. Kuortane and the Blues will face off for the Naisten Liiga bronze medal.
The Aurora Borealis Cup Finals start on March 30 in Tampere.