Team Finland is currently in Telfs, Austria for the 2017 Nations Cup, where they began Wednesday with a 7-2 victory against the co-host country. The eight-team tournament will conclude on Saturday in Füssen, Germany after four consecutive days of play.
The Naisleijonat’s current roster closely resembles last November’s Four Nations team, with some notable changes. Forward Petra Nieminen and defenseman Sini Karjalainen are absent as both are currently in the Czech Republic for the U18 Women’s World Championship, while Minnesota Whitecaps defenseman Mira Jalosuo returns to the blue line. Eveliina Suonpää replaces Anni Keisala as one half of the goalie tandem, joining Noora Räty in net.
The Ice Garden had a quick chat with Team Finland head coach Pasi Mustonen prior to the tournament.
TIG: How long have you been with the National Team program? How have you seen it evolve?
PM: This is my third season as a head coach. We play better and better as a team, and the average Finnish player has become more competitive.
TIG: At what age does the National Team start taking note of younger players? How do they attract attention, particularly in areas outside the big cities?
PM: We try to recruit all the female players at the age of 15 to a high school team at sports Institute of Kuortane. The coaches are professionals. Younger players are followed up through FIHA's [Finnish Ice Hockey Association] talent scouting system in all areas in Finland.
TIG: How do you use the Nations Cup as an evaluation tool? Is it difficult to evaluate things like player chemistry on a team that plays together infrequently?
PM: It is extremely easy to evaluate individual players and their contribution to team chemistry during an intensive tournament week like Nations Cup.
TIG: The Naisleijonat see some of these teams pretty regularly in the Euro Hockey Tour. What's different about playing them in a tournament like this?
PM: Actually, the only difference is the physical load in the end of the tournament. Some teams get rather tired the fourth consecutive game day.
TIG: Were you happy with Noora Räty's play at the Four Nations Cup?
PM: Noora played an excellent tournament.
TIG: What is Meeri Räisänen's status? She posted on social media about playing an exhibition game with the team, but is not listed on any recent rosters. Is there an injury?
PM: There is no injury. We have only given other goalies a chance. We know already where Meeri stands.