It's Canada and U.S. for gold!
It's Canada and U.S. for gold!
Spooner puts a fork in Finland with two goals
Saturday will mark the sixteenth consecutive final between the Canadians and Americans in IIHF Ice Hockey World Women's Championship history.
The U.S., the defending champions and winners of five of the last seven Women's Worlds, will be out for revenge after their heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss to Canada in the 2014 Olympic gold medal game in Sochi.
"Every time we get to play the U.S., it’s a grind," said Canada's Natalie Spooner. "We have that rivalry, and we get excited to play them. It can really go any way, and we’re just excited to have that challenge ahead of us and hopefully pull out a win."
Against Finland, captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored the first-period winner for Canada, and Spooner added a pair of unassisted goals in the third.
"I think the game went the way we were expecting it to go," said Canadian coach Doug Derraugh. "They clogged up the middle. We had lots of chances. Their goaltender played well. We just needed to be patient and stick with it and we felt that we’d get a break at some point."
Canada outshot Finland 43-19, and Raisanen couldn't have done much more in her attempt to outduel her Canadian counterpart. Ann-Renee Desbiens, who blanked Russia 4-0 in round-robin play, got her second tournament shutout.
The Finns will battle Russia for bronze in Saturday’s early game. It’s a rematch of the 2013 bronze medal game in Ottawa, which Russia won 2-0.
"It will be a great game," said Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski. "Obviously, we want to have a medal. We have to score tomorrow and just play our own game"
It remains to be seen whether Canada has set itself up better mentally for the final than the Americans with this hard-fought victory. The U.S. absolutely coasted past Russia 13-1, and has certainly been more impressive in Malmo overall. When the two North American superpowers met in their round-robin opener, the U.S. won 4-2.
In its only previous semi-final meeting with Finland, Canada prevailed 5-1 (2012). Although this score was closer, the reality was that Canada dominated territorially and the Finns had few offensive chances.
As is often the case, small mistakes proved costly for Finland versus Canada.
Canada got the early lead on the power play after the Finns got caught with too many players on the ice. Poulin swooped down the right side over the Finnish blue line, fired a shot that was blocked by a sliding Minttu Tuominen, and picked up the rebound to backhand it past Raisanen at 6:32.
The only penalty of the middle frame was another too-many-players-on-the-ice booboo for the Finns. But this time, the Canadians couldn’t find the back of the net.
The tension mounted as it remained a one-goal game. Raisanen did her part, foiling Jennifer Wakefield’s attempt from the hash marks on a 2-on-1 with under two minutes left in the period.
Canada caught a break when it went up 2-0 just 25 seconds into the third period.
On a shoot-in into the Finnish zone, Raisanen skated behind her net to get the puck. Unfortunately, it deflected straight out front off the skate of Hiirikoski, and Spooner banged it into the gaping cage.
"I heard [Hiiriikoski] was yelling that she was taking the puck so I just left it," Raisanen said of the gaffe.
"I was just there to put it in," said Spooner.
Spooner gave Canada a 3-0 lead on a dazzling solo rush with 9:52 remaining, pulling the puck through the skates of blueliner Anna Kilponen and beating Raisanen with a high backhander.
"That’s a highlight reel goal there," said Derraugh. "I think that’s probably going to make the Top 10 of the night."
In desperation, the Finns pulled Raisanen for the sixth attacker with 6:21 to play when Canada's Sarah Davis took a slashing minor. But there were no late offensive fireworks for Suomi.
"Of course, I’m a little disappointed," said Hiirikoski. "We had a great game today and a great chance."
The victory improved Canada’s all-time Women’s Worlds record versus Finland to 17 wins and zero losses, going back to 1990.
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