International Ice Hockey Federation

Finns outlast Russia

Niskanen hot as defending bronze medalists win

Published 28.03.2016 18:55 GMT-7 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Finns outlast Russia
KAMLOOPS, BC - MARCH 28: Finland's Jenni Hiirikoski #6 celebrates a second period goal against Russia with Michelle Karvinen #21, Riikka Valila #13, Rosa Lindstedt #4 and Petra Nieminen #11 during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
In a rematch of last year’s bronze medal game, Finland beat Russia 5-3 at the Sandman Centre. Special teams dominated, as both sides had two power play goals.

Tanja Niskanen scored twice and added an assist, and Jenni Hiirikoski, Ronja Savolainen, and Noora Tulus had singles for Finland, which defeated the Russians for third place last year in Malmo, Sweden.

Iya Gavrilova had a pair of unassisted goals, and Anna Shibanova also scored for Russia. The Russians have medaled twice in tournament history, winning bronze in 2001 and 2013.

"Of course, they scored three times," said Hiirikoski. "Maybe too much. But whatever! We scored five times today, and Tanja was on fire. It was good."

Finnish starting goalie Meeri Raisanen got the win versus Russian counterpart Nadezhda Morozova in this spirited, up-and-down affair. Finland outshot Russia 28-25.

"Obviously I’m not glad about the result," said Russia's Alexandra Vafina. "The luck wasn’t on our side. We had so many chances. The game was really good, pretty fast. I’m just a little bit disappointed."

Niskanen broke a scoreless tie with 1:18 left in the first period when she circled into the slot and beat Morozova high to the blocker side with a smart wrister.

The Russians drew even at 11:44 of the second period. On a nice solo effort, Gavrilova danced out from behind the goal line and surprised Raisanen with her quick release. It is Gavrilova’s tenth IIHF Women’s World Championship dating back to 2004

With the towering Rosa Lindstedt providing the screen in front, Hiirikoski’s centre point shot trickled home to put Finland up 2-1 less than three minutes later.

The Finns took a penalty for too many players on the ice, and it cost them. Russia struck back with Shibanova’s great one-timer from the right faceoff circle at 15:43 to make it 2-2.

Finland jumped ahead again at 3:31 of the third. Working on a 5-on-4, Niskanen tried to find Venla Hovi standing on the doorstep in front and the puck found its way past Morozova.

"I have played with her this season in Jyvaskyla so I know how good she can be," Hiirikoski said of Niskanen.

However, Russia wasn't done yet. Vafina provided the screen as Gavrilova cut out of the corner to the goalie’s left and zipped it home at 7:05 with the man advantage.

But then the Finns pulled away.

At 8:07, Savolainen cruised in off the blue line and took a rising shot that found twine past Morozova’s right post.

Finland went up 5-3 at 10:35 when Noora Tulus corraled a rebound on her backhand and flung it past the goalie.

Vafina missed on a partial breakaway late in the game, dinging it off the crossbar. That was as close as the Russians would get.

"We will keep trying harder next time," said Vafina.

Tough tests loom. Next up for Russia is host Canada on Tuesday. The Finns will play the Americans in the early game at the Sandman Centre that day.

"We just have to be brave and do our best," said Hiirikoski. "Keep the puck moving. Let’s see what happens."