Kärpät, Ilves headed to Aurora Borealis Cup Final

Last year’s champions and the Naisten Liiga’s top team will face off for the Finnish league title.

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.

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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.