VANCOUVER – Finland and Sweden went full rounds in the women's bronze medal game. Karoliina Rantamäki got the game winning goal 2:33 into the overtime when the puck bounced in off Erika Holst's blade.Click here for the photo gallery of the game.
"This is a huge medal for women's hockey in Finland. It will help us get better financial support, and obviously, when girls playing hockey in Finland see that we won a medal in the Olympics, they may want to be here, too," said Finland's goaltender Noora Räty.
On Wednesday, Finland’s men’s hockey team showed that scoring late in the game is a winning strategy, as long as you have a great goalie, and stay out of the box. The women’s team had the goalie in Räty, coach Pekka Hämäläinen’s chosen one, playing in her fifth game of the tournament. Staying out of the box proved to be more difficult.
"We expected the game to be like it was, it was a tight game, and not a lot of goals, but ... it was great," said Finland's Mariia Posa.
"Our goalie was great, and the whole team defended well," she added.
Finland has won the last two bronze medals at the World Women's Championships – beating Sweden in the 2009 tournament – but haven't been in the medals in the Olympics since 1998.
But the Finns stayed out of the box just 43 seconds as defenceman Rosa Lindstedt took a hooking minor. The Finnish penalty kill, and Räty, had little trouble with the Swedish power play, though.
"We were a little nervous in the beginning, and it's hard to lay your best game when you're nervous. We're happy to win, though," Räty said.
The Finns were given their chance to grab control of the game, when Jenni Asserholt Nevalainen took a slashing minor at 8:11. Unfortunately for the Finns, their power play was also as ineffective as the men’s had been just 15 hours prior, in their game against the Czechs.
With about seven seconds to go, Räty robbed Sweden’s Maria Rooth by making a quick glove save on Rooth’s shot from the slot. Keeping the Swedish forwards still goalless in the tournament.
In the second period, Sweden gave Finland another power play – Frida Nevalainen, tripping – but Sara Grahn in the Swedish goal was just as impressive as Räty had been for the Finns earlier. However, seconds after Nevalainen got back onto the ice, Finland’s Heidi Pelttari got the puck on top of the left faceoff circle, she took a couple of steps in and fired a wrist shot from the faceoff dot, and beat Grahn high on the glove side to give Finland the important 1-0 lead.
And given multiple chances, Sweden finally converted one. At 31:11, Mariia Posa was sent to the penalty box for tripping. Isabelle Jordansson fired up a slap shot form the blue line, and Maria Rooth netted her first goal of the tournament, by deflecting the shot from the slot, beating Räty high on the glove side at 32:24, and tied the game.
Just 36 seconds later, the Finns were down a player again, but managed to kill the team penalty off. In the next shift, Michelle Karvinen got the puck in the Finnish zone, and she came flying down the ice on the right lane, beat a Swedish defenceman on the offensive blue line, and cut to the front of the net, went around Grahn and then slammed the puck to the back of the net to give Finland a 2-1 lead at 36:02.
Another penalty would prive to be costly. Pelttari took a hooking penalty, and the Swedes got to work. Elin Holmlöv played the puck to Gunilla Andersson on the point. She onetimed it to the net, Räty made a pad save but Danijela Rundqvist got the rebound. Räty made another save. Rundqvist was the first to grab the second rebound and she put the puck to the net with a backhander, at 45:09.
Sweden got another power play opportunity when Mari Saarinen took a body checking minor, but it slipped through their fingers when Pernilla Winberg took a penalty for high sticking 43 seconds later.
The game went to overtime at 2-2.
"Before overtime, our coach told us we were the stronger team and we just had to keep believing in ourselves. If we did, we'd eventually win," said Sweden's Maria Rooth.
Faith just wasn't enough. Especially since the other team had some of that, too.
"I never thought we'd go to a penalty shootout, I believed we'd win the game in overtime. We were the better team, we moved better. I wasn't with the team so I don't now what he said, but I think he'd just tell the players to get some oucks to the net," said goaltender Räty.
A little over two minutes into it, Karoliina Rantamäki sent a pass towards the Finnish net, trying to reach Sara Tuominen at the far post. Unfortunately for the Sweden, Erika Holst, trying to keep Tuominen from scoring, deflected the puck into her own net, ending the game, and the tournament, in Finland's medal celebrations.
"It's really, really, tough," said Sweden's goaltender Sara Grahn.
"Losing this game today really sucks," added Erika Holst.
"It was a close game which when we play Finland is pretty a one goal difference in the game. When they went up 1-0 we just had to keep putting the puck back on the net and determined to tie the game," she said.
Finland's head coach Pekka Hämäläinen was all smiles.
"This is the highlight of my career. We've made a fantastic journey together, and I'm proud of the level of commitment the team has showed," he said.