International Ice Hockey Federation

Canada takes down Finns

Canada takes down Finns

Spooner pots pair in 6-2 triumph

Published 31.03.2015 19:30 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Canada takes down Finns
MALMO, SWEDEN - MARCH 31: Canada's Natalie Spooner #24 and Brianne Jenner #19 celebrate after a first period goal against Finland during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Canada clinched the second seed in Group A with a 6-2 victory over Finland. Natalie Spooner led the way with two goals and an assist.

Jennifer Wakefield also stepped up with a goal and two assists for Canada. Courtney Birchard and Emily Clark chipped in a goal and an assist apiece, and Brigitte Lacquette and Emily Clark added singles.

"We knew they were going to be a tough team to play against," said Spooner. "They always clog the middle. They like to trap the center zone, and we knew coming into the game we were going to have to put up with that and try to break it down and get in their end and just get shots on net."

Coming third in Group A, Finland will face the second-place team in Group B in the quarter-finals on Wednesday. Canada gets a break until Friday's semi-finals.

Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski contributed two markers, and veteran star Riikka Valila assisted on both of them.

"It’s always nice to score," said Hiirikoski. "But today it was not enough. Now we just have to focus on tomorrow’s game."

Finland’s Evenliina Suonpaa made her World Women’s Championship debut in goal, while Genevieve Lacasse returned for Canada after making 30 saves in the opening 4-2 loss to the United States. The Canadians outshot Finland 29-17.

"I think all three teams we’ve played play way different systems," said Lacasse, looking back on Canada's preliminary round. "So it’s been about adjusting to those systems, and I think we’ve gotten better every single game."

Here, Finland’s undoing was partially due to Canada’s skill and consistency, and partly due to its own mistakes.

The Finns looked determined to skate with Canada in the early going, and the game got off to a fast if tight-checking start.

Canada drew first blood on the power play at 8:56. It took just eight seconds. From the goal line, Rebecca Johnston laid a crisp cross-ice pass to Lacquette pinching in, and she lifted it into the open side.

Spooner stretched Canada’s lead to 2-0 just over two minutes later. Brianne Jenner got it over to Spooner in the neutral zone, and she motored over the blue line, using rearguard Rosa Lindstedt as a screen and beating Suonpaa with a nice low shot off the goalie’s right post.

The Finns struck back just 12 seconds into their first power play with Lacquette off for hooking. They controlled the puck off a faceoff in the Canadian zone, and Hiirikoski, named Best Defender at the 2014 Olympics, took a feed from Valila and floated one from the centre point, beating Lacasse through a sea of bodies.

That goal ended a long drought. The Finns hadn’t scored against Canada in IIHF play since Karoliina Rantamaki potted one at 10:32 of the second period in a 5-1 loss at the Women’s Worlds on April 13, 2012. They lost 8-0 to Canada at the 2013 Women’s Worlds and 3-0 at the 2014 Olympics.

Shots favoured Finland 6-5 in the first period, marking the first time in this tournament that a North American team has been outshot in a period by its non-North American opponent.

The checking intensified in the middle frame, as the Finns did their best to limit time and space for the larger Canadians – nine pounds heavier on average.

Finally, a sloppy Finnish line change gave Canada the opening it craved. Spooner put Wakefield in the clear with a long pass, and she powered a slapper past the goalie’s glove at 16:36, popping the water bottle off.

"Her shot is still a bomb, like that slap shot she had top corner," Spooner said of her linemate.

Just 37 seconds later, Birchard stepped in from the left point and skimmed a low wrister through a partially screened Suonpaa to make it 4-1.

And just like that, Finnish dreams of their first win ever over Canada at a World Women's Championship were gone like smoke curling upward from a traditional sauna chimney.

"There were a couple of sleepy moments, I think, in the second period," said Hiirikoski.

With 5:50 left in the third period, Clark dipsy-doodled her way in off right wing and put her own rebound home to give Canada some insurance. It was the 19-year-old's first career Worlds goal.

Just seven seconds later, Hiirikoski surprised Lacasse with a hard slapper on the rush that slipped through the Canadian goalie. It was to no avail.

Spooner converted a power play rebound with 2:43 remaining to round out the scoring at 6-2.

Despite ending group play on a high-flying note, she felt there was still room for improvement in Canada's game: "We need to get our puck movement a little bit quicker and get more pucks on net. Sometimes we’re getting too comfortable on the outside and if we can get pucks to the net and keep driving to the net, that’s the only way we’re really going to score."

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Finland has lost 17 straight games to Canada at the Women's Worlds, going back to 1990. But at the same time, the Finns have made the bronze medal game at all 15 tournaments.

"Of course, it’s our goal to have a medal from here," said Hiirikoski. "Tomorrow is a big day for us."


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