Finland a step ahead of Russia

Solid team effort and two powerplay goals give Finns the win

14.02.2010
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UBC Vancouver British Columbia Canada

So close: Russia's Kristina Petrovskaya chases down Finland's Karolina Rantamäki. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images

VANCOUVER – Finland was a little faster, a little sharper, and a little more disciplined than Russia. That was enough to give the team an important 5-1 win in its first game in the Olympics. Nina Tikkinen scored two of the Finnish goals.

Click here for the photo gallery of the game. Maybe it was Olympic first game jitters, but Finland started the game somewhat nervously, even drawing three minor penalties by the six-minute mark. That gave Russia the advantage, and an opportunity to take control of the game early on. And they did. Just ten seconds after Rosa Lindstedt’s first of two first-period penalties, Russian struck. First, a shot from the blueline got deflected on its way to the net, hitting the crossbar. The rebound went to Alexandra Vafina whose shot hit Noora Räty, but as the Finnish goaltender fell backwards, the puck went in with her. After the Russian goal, Finland took command of the game, sending the puck deep into the Russian zone one attack wave after another. “We were too careful, and they used their opportunities. We should have taken initiative from the beginning. There wasn’t just one turning point in the game, we need to be more aggressive all the time,” said Olga Permyakova. Finland's aggressive forechecking also yielded results. Russia got two minor penalties at the same time as Tatiana Burina and Permyakova were sent out for tripping and roughing, respectively, at 8:36. Only 54 seconds later, Finland had tied the game when Saija Sirviö one-timed a cross-ice pass from the top of the circle into the net. “I was surprised about how physical it was out there, there were a lot of penalties. I think both teams were a little nervous in the beginning,” said Emma Laaksonen, Team Finland’s captain. “The game was ours to lose so maybe that’s also why we were a little nervous. Actually, we pulled it together when Russia scored their goal,” she added. Finland was early coming to the second period, eager to get back into playing the game. Their starting lineup waited and chatted while the other side of the ice was empty as the Russian were still on their way to the rink. Finland kept on forechecking, and refused to give Russia any space or time. Early in the second period, Russian turned the puck over to Karoliina Rantamäki in their defensive zone. The puck slid straight to Marjo Voutilainen whose wrist shot hit the arm of a Russian defenceman - trying to block the shot - and the edge of Russian goaltender Irina Gashennikova’s pad before going through her five-hole into the net at 3:59 as Finland took the lead in the game. Russia got an excellent chance to tie the game midway through the game when they got to play 1:36 minutes with a two-man advantage after Lindstedt drew her third minor penalty of the game. The Finns killed off the penalty, and got back to work. The Finns, playing in white tonight, made it a two-goal game at 17:36, when Venla Hovi deflected Jenni Hiirikoski’s high wrist shot from the blueline downwards, and through Gashennikova’s five-hole. Again, Finland was strong at the beginning of the period. Converting a turnover into a 2-on-1 situation, Saara Tuominen carried the puck into the Russian zone, found Nina Tikkinen skating towards the Russian net, and sent a saucer to Tikkinen who lifted the puck into the net for 4-1 at 42:25. Tikkinen scored his second of the night at 49:32 when she deflected Heidi Pelttari's slapshot from the blueline past Gashennikova, making it 5-1 for Finland. On Tuesday, Finland will face China in a key game. The stakes are high, and the fact that China's head coach is former Team Finland coach Hannu Saintula, makes it even more interesting. “Tuesday’s game is the most important game for us. Their coach knows us well, but I think that if we just stick to our own gameplan, even that won’t help,” Laaksonen said. Russia's next game is against Team USA, also on Tuesday. RISTO PAKARINEN

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