Finland to bronze medal game in women’s Olympic ice hockey
President pays surprise visit to locker room
The Finnish women’s ice hockey team did not lack in enterprise or attitude when they challenged their unbeaten Canadian hosts in the Olympic semifinal. The showdown produced an anticipated result, albeit in a somewhat unexpected manner.
Canada did make it to the Olympic final, where it will face Team USA, but the hosts failed to produce the kind of mayhem in the rink that saw them annihilate Sweden 13-1 in the preliminary round.
All the same, the end result was to the home crowd’s liking. The last 20 seconds of the game were accompanied by a standing ovation by the entire audience.
The 23-year-old forward Meghan Agosta has been responsible of much of Canada’s point scoring in these Olympics, and the semifinal proved no exception.
Agosta produced Canada’s opening goal and again increased the home team’s lead to 3-0 towards the end of the second period.
With 14 points in four games (9 goals, 5 assists), it is safe to say that Agosta will be Canada’s greatest asset in the gold-medal game against the Americans on Thursday.
Another Canadian Haley Irwin also scored twice, although with some assistance from the unlucky Finns. The 2-0 goal changed direction from the stick of Nina Tikkinen while Irwin’s second goal was scooped in by Finnish goalie Noora Räty.
The Finns pledged before the game that nothing would be given for free, and they kept their promise.
Tight defence higher up the rink and self-sacrificing attitude near the Finnish goal forced the Canadians to really work for every goal they scored. But despite the Finns’ enterprise and attitude the difference in the skill level between the two teams was clear.
A lot rested on goalie Räty’s brave saves, but one can only stretch so far in front of an overwhelming opponent.
In Monday’s second semifinal USA demolished Sweden 9-1. Based on the goal statistics, Finland could be said to enter into the bronze medal game even as a slight favourite.
While in the locker room after the defeat against Canada, the Finnish girls received a surprise morale-boosting visit by the President of the Republic Tarja Halonen.
Halonen praised how the team’s performance had improved significantly since the Torino Games four years ago. “I believe she meant what she said”, head coach Pekka Hämäläinen later said.
“The presidential visit turned into positive energy. With the state support behind us, we will fight to get that medal”, Hämäläinen added.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Trying victory over China puts Finland in semifinals in women’s Olympic ice hockey (17.2.2010)