Finnish women edge five-goal thriller to seal ice hockey bronze
Finland overcame the Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) team 3-2 in the women’s ice hockey bronze medal match in what was a tightly contested encounter at the Gangneung Hockey Centre on 21 February.
The Finns raced into a two-goal lead after 20 minutes through Petra Niemenen – who took her PyeongChang 2018 tally to three – and Susanna Tapani before Olga Sosina pulled one back for the OAR team two minutes later.
Linda Valimaki restored the two-goal cushion late in the second period, but Lyudmila Belyakova scored again for the OAR team during a power play with 14 minutes left on the clock in the final period to set up a dramatic finale. However, in the face of some concerted attacking play from their opponents, the Finns held their nerve and their defensive lines to secure a memorable victory.
Hungry for success
"Nobody wants to give up a medal game, so we were fighting the whole game and I'm extremely proud of the team," said forward Michelle Karvinen. "I think we kept it together and were extremely disciplined. We handled the pressure all the way to the end."
She added that she and her team-mates, who were not widely tipped to make the podium ahead of the Games, they would use the momentum of their victory to try and close the gap with the two PyeongChang 2018 finalists.
"We will try to catch up with the USA and Canada. Some games we have made it happen. We couldn't make it happen in the semifinal but I still think in the future it might change. We really have good support from Finland and everybody. We're really hungry to become the best."
Defender Jenni Hiirikoski believes that the ingredients to do that are already there, thanks to an exciting new generation of players, who played a big part in their medal success in PyeongChang.
"We scored many goals in this tournament and we have this new generation coming through with Petra Niemenen and these younger girls, so it's nice to see them stepping up."
"Pretty awesome – probably one of the best days of my life," was how Karvinen's team-mate Noora Raty described Finland's victory. "This has been the day we've been waiting for for the past four years after Sochi."
Goaltender Raty, who was part of the team that claimed Finland's previous bronze at Vancouver 2010, said that this one was tougher because of the added burden of being favourites to win the match.
"We beat Sweden in overtime in Vancouver so that was a pretty great feeling to beat your biggest rival in overtime, and we were underdogs in that game. I think we were favourites today, so it was a little bit more pressure than Vancouver, but I would put both of them pretty high in my career."
Finland have now won three medals in women's ice hockey at the Olympic Winter Games, all of them bronze, with the previous two coming at Vancouver 2010 and at Nagano 1998.
The gold medal match between Canada and the USA takes place on Thursday 22 February.