Finland 0 - Sweden 1
Matchup: Finland 0 vs. Sweden 1, 3:30 p.m., MTS Centre | IIHF Summary
SWEDEN SURVIVES FINLAND TO BAG BRONZE
By Derek Jory
It may not be gold, but Team Sweden is ecstatic nonetheless.
Despite a third-period injury to star goalie Kim Martin, Sweden captured the bronze medal at the 2007 IIHF World Women’s Championship with a 1-0 victory over rival Team Finland Tuesday afternoon at the MTS Centre.
The winning goal came from Maria Rooth just 2:37 into the third period when Erika Holst’s hard work in the Finnish zone resulted in a turnover. Holst fired a harmless-looking backhander on net, which Rooth tipped along the way, fooling Finnish goalie Noora Raty as the puck snuck between her pads. It was a lucky goal for the Swedes, but it was all they’d need.
With 6:30 remaining in the game, Martin got knocked over in front of the Swedish net and had to leave the game on a stretcher after facing 25 shots. Paramedics paid special attention to her left leg. Backup Sara Grahn came in to replace her, and made three stops to preserve the victory.
An announced crowd of 8,555 watched as Tre Kronor won its second-ever bronze medal, (the first also coming against Finland in 2005), although many fans were dressed in red and white in anticipation of the gold medal game between Canada and the USA to follow.
It was the second meeting between these two Scandinavian rivals in the championship, and it was similar to Finland’s 1-0 overtime win in the Preliminary Round, except for the final result.
Finland’s total lack of offensive confidence was why it had to settle for fourth in this tournament. Here, the Finns failed to score for the third consecutive game, and they never scored a regulation-time goal after Nora Tallus’s marker at 8:28 of the third period in a tournament-opening 4-0 win over Russia on April 4.
Raty, who had another strong game, made 27 saves in the Finnish nets.
This was the latest in a long string of bitter Finnish losses to Sweden in international hockey. Last year’s 3-2 loss in the men’s Olympic hockey gold medal game was the most high-profile example.
Sweden now retains third place in the IIHF Women’s World Rankings with 2,825 points, while Finland stays in fourth with 2,755 points.
The game started out as a tight-checking affair, with Finland dictating the pace early on. The teams exchanged chances, but it wasn’t until late in the period that either side showed any real life. Finland’s Tallus streaked down the right side, dangled around a Swedish defender, and fired a rocket shot at Martin, but Martin stoned her with the glove.
The second period was almost a carbon copy of the first, except that Sweden came out with more jump, testing Raty early and often. The 17-year-old was prepared for the challenge, though, with impressive saves on Katarina Timglas and Jenni Asserholt from in close.
Raty brought Finnish fans to their feet late in the period with easily one of the nicest saves of the tournament. A Swedish 2-on-1 saw Timglas float a perfect pass to Pernilla Winberg, but Raty demonstrated her athleticism, doing the splits to stop the shot on the right side of her net.
Past the midway point of the second period, Winberg almost got loose on a breakaway, but Finnish blueliner Heidi Peltarri checked her from behind and stripped her of the puck. At the other end, Martin repeatedly stymied Finland’s long-range shots.
Then, just before the halfway mark of the third, with Sweden nursing a one-goal lead, Asserholt fed Danijella Rundqvist neatly on a 3-on-1 rush. This could have given Sweden a two-goal lead, but Rundqvist put the puck wide.
The physical play picked up as the final minutes ticked down. When Jenni Hiirikoski was called for bodychecking with 44 seconds left, it killed off Finland’s last hopes of an equalizer.
After the final siren, the Swedes hugged in a tight-locked circle in front of their net, threw away their
sticks and gloves in celebration, and saluted the crowd with unison bows.
The Swedes were still taking their post-game celebration photos at centre when Kim Martin came hobbling out on crutches. The team greeted her with cheers, and Erika Holst and Nanna Jansson skated over to her, picked her up, and carried her back to pose mid-photo with the team’s commemorative silver plate.
The Player of the Game for Finland was Noora Raty, and for Sweden it was Jenni Asserholt.
Finland’s best players of the tournament were named: Raty, Saija Sirvio, and Jenni Hiirikoski. For Sweden, it was Gunilla Andersson, Joa Elfsberg, and Pernilla Winberg.
In the past, Finland was consistently the third-best team in international women’s hockey, but after losing back-to-back World Championship bronze medal games to Sweden (not to mention fourth-place finishes in the last two Olympics), the Finns have taken a big step backwards. The Swedes, however, have shown steady improvement, and this win is a big one for their program.
TRE KRONOR CELEBRATES WHILE FINNS FEEL FORLORN
Earning three medals in three consecutive IIHF women’s tournaments has Team Sweden feeling pretty good about itself. On April 10, HockeyCanada.ca’s reporters caught up with both the victorious Swedes and the vanquished Finns to get full reaction after Sweden’s 1-0 win in the bronze medal game in Winnipeg.
Pernilla Winberg, Sweden: I’m really happy about it, and I’m proud of our team. We played pretty good, but we could have played better. It was just one goal, but that’s the most important thing. It means a lot. Most people know about us at home, and it’s really important for us to do something for our country.
Joa Elfsberg, Sweden: It was such a relief because we had a bronze medal [in 2005], but I wasn’t on the team. So this is my first. For the team it’s our second, so I really, really wanted this one. I am so tired! It was like the third game in three days.
Kim Martin, Sweden: [Regarding my late-game injury], it was my ACL or MCL. I’m not sure which. I don’t know what happened, if somebody pushed me, or if I fell. They don’t know yet, because it hurts too much to look at it, so we will see, but something is not right. Anyway, I love this team, we’re always doing our best all the time and never give up. It’s amazing how we can fight. It was such a close game and we were tired, and so was Finland, but I think we kept going out strong. Finland was better in the first period, but I think we took over and had great scoring opportunities. So I just love this. [As for the medal], it’s really important, especially when we took one at the Olympics, and keep on wining medals. It’s really good for women’s hockey back home.
Peter Elander, Head Coach, Sweden: I’m really proud of the team. We came together as a group. One girl was born in ’91, another born in ’75. There’s an age difference. It’s huge, but we still enjoy being together, and have respect for each other. So I think that’s the key. And Pernilla Winberg, who’s 18 years old, she was involved so much offensively. I don’t know how many points Hayley [Wickenheiser] had when she was 18, but I’m really proud of the team. I feel bad for [Kim] Martin, getting injured in the last five minutes of the game. Grahn stepped in for the last couple of minutes and made [a couple] of saves directly. She’s 18 years old, and I think she was nervous. [This year’s schedule] was opposite to the Halifax schedule [in 2004], where we played Canada and the US back-to-back and had no legs for the bronze medal game. You could see the same pattern here. Finland didn’t have legs in this case. There has to be some meeting about the scheduling. Otherwise it’s unfair competition.
Noora Raty, Finland: Our shots weren’t good enough. We have to get better shots. With only one goal let in, we should have won. We’re disappointed because we went hard and we were focused.
Hannu Saintula, Head Coach, Finland: I think we have to focus our energy on the future. The last four games we didn’t score any goals in regulation time. We have to understand that you can’t win games if you can’t score any goals. That’s our problem at this point. We have a couple other problems with player injuries, but this is not the right time to talk about these things. We have to think about how we can play a little better offensively.
Finland: Finland’s last game against the Swedes came Thursday night when it won in overtime with a single goal. Since then, the Finns have been shut out in their last two games against the USA and Canada. But in the bronze medal game, they’ve had more success historically than the archrival Swedes. Since 1990, the Finns have won World Championship bronze seven times. Netminder Noora Raty is almost a sure bet to start between the pipes. The poised 17-year-old is the only goalie Finland has used in this tournament, and has made 112 saves. But that number, which has swelled against the likes of Canada and the USA, might suggest a problem on the blueline. That’s especially true since Finland may be without veteran defenceman Kati Kovalainen, who left the game yesterday late in the third period with an unexplained injury. Saija Sirvio and the others will have to pick up their game to keep control of their end versus some of the larger Swedish forwards like Erika Holst and Maria Rooth. And to be blunt, the team needs more scoring from its forwards. In four games, they’ve scored just five goals, and they’ve been blanked in their last two outings. Mari Pehkonen and Mari Saarinen lead the team with a goal and an assist apiece, but others need to contribute more. They should be able to generate more scoring opportunities against a fellow second-tier team like Sweden. If Raty puts in another strong performance and the forwards can solve Sweden’s goaltending, the Finns just might take home their eighth bronze. Their motivation will be high, but they’ll also need to respond properly if things don’t go their way at the outset.
Sweden: The Swedes posted a record of three wins and one loss in Preliminary and Playoff Round action. Of course, the loss to Finland is the one thing they don’t want to repeat when a medal’s on the line. Since the start of the new millennium, the rivals have faced off against each other in a World Championship bronze medal game three times, the only exception coming in 2001 (where Russia beat Finland). The Swedes were overjoyed to win 5-2 on home ice in 2005 after losing to the Finns in 2000 and 2004. Sweden’s netminders have split duties in Winnipeg, and it’s harder to anticipate who will start today than one would have guessed before this tournament, given that Kim Martin was the Tre Kronor hero of the 2006 Turin Olympics, and has been considered by some to be the best female goalie in the world. Martin played well against the Finns on Thursday, stopping 25 shots before letting in the OT game-winner. But Sara Grahn’s been solid in her two games, and has a slightly better save percentage. The blueline corps, meanwhile, has also provided a solid performance. Playing in her record 12th World Championship, Gunilla Andersson is Sweden’s top-ranked defenceman, and she’s second among tournament defence scoring leaders. The Swedish forwards have dished up a balanced attack, but there are a few shining stars. Pernilla Winberg’s emerged as the overall team scoring leader with five goals and three assists. As expected, veterans Maria Rooth and Erika Holst have also come out strong, but they will have to keep it up against the Finns. The Swedes will have to be a little more aggressive on balance than they were in their last game against Finland if they want to repeat their 2005 bronze medal performance. And they may have found the offensive confidence they needed in their lopsided wins over China and Switzerland.