International Ice Hockey Federation


"Ihme" on ice as Canada loses, 4-3

Published 02.04.2017 03:46 GMT-4 | Author Andrew Podnieks
PLYMOUTH, MICHIGAN - APRIL 1: Finland's Emma Nuutinen #22 is all smiles after her team takes a 4-3 lead over Canada during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
For the first time in IIHF competition, Canada has lost a game to a country other than the United States. Finland's 4-3 win was the result of confidence.

Ronja Savolainen intercepted a clearing attempt along the boards and fired a quick shot that beat Genevieve Lacasse to the short side with only 101 seconds left in regulation time. It broke a 3-3 tie, and for the first time in 21 head-to-head meetings, going back to 1990, Finland had defeated Canada.

"When I got the puck, I just thought I had to shoot," Savolainen said. "There were a lot of players in front of their goalie, and when it went in, it was like 'yes!' We felt good before the game. We knew we could win."

When asked what the Finnish word for "miracle" was, 43-year-old Riikka Valila beamed, "Ihme!"

The win was especially impressive because three times the Finns took the lead, and three times Canada tied the game quickly. But the Finns would not break on this night.

"Every time they got a lead, we were giving them confidence," Canada's Rebecca Johnston noted. "We needed to swarm them and take that confidence away, but we didn't."

"The key was that we pressured them all the time," goalie Noora Raty suggested. "Our plan was to skate more than they did, and I think we did a good job with that. And we scored goals. Uusually we get one or two. We knew if we could pressure their defence, they'd turn the puck over. We weren't sitting back."

The result has put the Group A standings in a state of flux they've never been in. The USA is on top with six points, Finland and Russia are now second with three, and Canada, no wins and two losses, is in last place.

The win was the culmination of several factors. First, a confidence in their team, and a belief in their coach, Pasi Mustonen, who is in his third year as head coach.

Second, superior goaltending. Noora Raty is among the best women goalies in the world, whie at the other end the duo of Emerance Maschmeyer and Genevieve Lacasse did not have their best games. Indeed, the last time Canada pulled its goalie to a European team was February 17, 2010, at the Vancouver Olympics, and even then it was because the score was 13-0 over Sweden and coach Mel Davidson merely wanted to give the tandem of Kim St. Pierre and Charline Labonte a bit of work.

"We came out flat," a disconsolate Johnston noted of Canada's start to the game. "We need to get that first goal and put them on their heels. We missed that. We came back three times, but it wasn't enough. We have to dig deeper."

Although Canada dominated the opening period, it was the Finns that got the opening goal. That came off a bad clearing attempt by Brianne Jenner, who tried going up the middle with a pass from deep in her corner. Susanna Tapani intercepted and fired a quick shot, and Sanni Hakala made a beautiful deflection past Maschmeyer at 18:42.

Canada responded right away. Johnston took a shot off the rush which Raty kicked aside, but the puck landed on the stick of Erin Ambrose who made no mistake with the rebound.

The Finns took another lead just 61 seconds into the second period on an early power play. Petra Nieminen skated off the boards with room to spare and fired a shot to the short side that Maschmeyer misjudged. Just like that Suomi was proving itself a worthy adversary this night.

But almost as quickly as in the first, Canada repsonded. The women moved the puck around in rhe Finnish end, and Blayre Turnbull wound up with a shot from the slot. She wired a drive over the shoulder of Raty at 4:21 to even the score, 2-2.

Incredibly, the Finns answered right back, Tapani knocking in a loose puck at 6:49. That goal spelled the end for Maschmeyer, who was replaced by Lacasse. The change had to be made, but the Canadians were still reeling. Finland almost scored a fourth goal, and Canada recovered later to create some good chances of its own, but by the intermission the scoreline was still shocking--Finland 3, Canada 2.

Canada wasted no time in tying the game in the third, though. Johnston came down her off wing on a two-on-one and fired a shot between Raty's pads just 36 seconds in, tying the game for a third time. That was the last goal for the Canadians.

"This is huge, especially for the younger players," Raty concluded. "We've been close before, but just close. Now we've done it. We know we can do it again."