Valkama shoots Finns to semis

WW18: Canada, USA, Finland, and Czech Republic go for medals

Stora Mossen Stockholm  Sweden

Team Finland celebrates their spot in the medal round. Photo: Phillip MacCallum / HHOF-IIHF Images

STOCKHOLM – Saana Valkama's OT goal lifted Finland into the final four, with Canada, the US, and the Czech Republic that beat Germany in the other quarterfinal, 3-1. Switzerland beat Japan 4-0 in the first relegation round game and is close to earning a spot in next year's top division tournament.

Canada vs. Finland
USA vs. Czech Republic

Relegation Round (best of three, Switzerland leads 1-0)
Switzerland vs Japan

Schedule, scores and statistics
Photo gallery

Sweden - Finland, 2-3 OT

In a true tradition of the Sweden-Finland rivalry, it took the teams more than 60 minutes to find a winner, but in the end, it was Finland’s Saana Valkama, who beat Sofia Carlström 1:46 into the overtime and send Finland to a semi-final against Canada.

“It was a good game, and I think we deserved to win,” said Valkama.

Finland controlled the game early on, thanks to Sweden’s three minor penalties in a span of just five minutes and two seconds. Carlström in Sweden’s goal turned away all ten shots in the period, and kept Sweden in the game.

The Finns got a great start for the second period, when Noora Tulus followed her linemates’ rush, and picked up a loose puck, then fired a slap shot that beat Carlström high in her stick side, just 50 seconds into the period.

Then it was Finland’s turn to run into penalty trouble, and while they killed off the first penalty, Jenni Oinonen got to witness Sweden’s equalizer from the penalty box. Lena Backlin’s slapshot from the blueline beat Isabella Portnoj in Finland’s goal at 8:00.

With five and a half minutes to go, Finland got a two-man advantage, and Venla Kotkaslahti deflected Jenni Oinonen’s slapshot past Carlström to give Finland the lead again at 15:55.

In the third period, Sweden outshot Finland 11-8, and the pressure yielded results at 7:54 when Linnea Hedin’s blueline to blueline pass sent Michelle Lowenhielm on a breakaway. She waited until Portnoj committed herself to making a save to her right, then flipped the puck into an empty net on Portnoj’s left.

Elin Johansson’s penalty just two seconds before the end of the regulation time proved to be costly, as Finland got to start the overtime with a 4-on-3 powerplay. They kept the puck in the Swedish zone, and the Saana Valkama got her chance. She grabbed a loose puck, turned around and took a wrist shot that went in through Carlström’s five-hole.

“I just tried to get the puck to the net, and it went in,” Valkama said.

Sweden will play Germany in the game for fifth place on Friday, Finland advances to the semi-final.

“We’ll try to challenge everybody, we have nothing to lose here,” said Valkama.

Germany - Czech Republic, 1-3

The Czech Republic had clinched their place in the quarterfinals just 23 hours prior to the game, while Germany had rested starting goalie Nadja Kruber in their game against Canada. While Kruber played another good game, nothing could stop the Czechs tonight. Not after a pre-game pep talk delivered by a Czech hockey legend, forward Vladimir Zabrodsky, a two-time world champion himself.

“We played with a big heart. We were pretty tired, after the game and having played with practically just two lines, so we left everything on the ice,” said Czech captain Jana Fialova.

The Czechs picked up from where they left in their game against Japan, but fortunately for Germany, Kruber was at least as good as in her first two starts in the tournament.

The Czechs outshot Germany - in part, thanks to three power play opportunities - in the first two periods, 27-13 in total. Especially in the first period, Kruber made several high-quality saves that kept Germany in the game.

Kruber got beat 10:42 into the second period when Katerina Solnickova beat her at close range to give the Czechs the lead in the game. The goal was Solnickova’s third in the tournament.

The Germans were determined to get back into the game in the third period, but Klara Chmelova delivered a cold shower with her goal at 0:51, off Solnickova’s assist, giving the Czechs - whose goal getting into the tournament had been to avoid relegation - a 2-0 lead.

Germany worked their way back into the game with Kerstin Spielberger’s goal at 50:22, but Aneta Tejlarova, who turned 15 yesterday, scored her first goal of the tournament off a nice feed by Katerina Kaplanova, and sealed the final score.

“Now our goal is to win a bronze medal,” said Fialova, smiling.

Germany will play in the game for fifth place on Friday.

Switzerland gets breathing room: Japan - Switzerland, 0-4

The teams playing to stay in the top division were close, very close, but in the end Switzerland left the rink as their winner, beating Japan 4-0, mostly thanks to their power play.

Lara Stalder and Sabrina Zollinger scored one and assisted one each, and Tamara Klossner turned away all 35 shots she faced.

"It was a tough game. There were periods when I didn't face many shots, but I managed to stay focused," said Klossner.

After a goalless first period, in which Japan had a bit of an edge, thanks to three power-play opportunities, Switzerland fought their way back into the game in the second. Japan, that had played very disciplined up to the last minutes of the second period, found themselves in a two-man disadvantage with 2:25 remaining in the period.

Just 6 seconds into the 5-on-3 power play, Selina Wuttke’s deflected on Lara Stalder’s cannon of a shot from the blueline past Japan’s Shizuka Takahashi, beating her high on the glove side. The Japanese penalty killers spent a good minute in front of their net, getting ready to kill of the second penalty, but even that didn't help them as Switzerland struck again in the following shift.

Team captain Sarah Forster’s shot missed the net, but the puck bounced straight to Stephanie Lehner waiting on the other side of the net and she had an easy task to tap it in.

Japan was poised to get back into the game in the third period, and managed to push Switzerland to their heels. However, halfway through the period, Takahashi was beat for the third time. Sabrina Zollinger took a shot from the top of the circles, but her shot hit a Japanese defenseman’s back and was deflected in, off the post of the Japanese goal. Forster collected her second point of the game on the goal.

Zollinger and Lara Stalder picked up their second points of the game when Stalder made it 4-0 on powerplay with six and a half minutes remaining in the period, assisted by Zollinger and Phoebe Stanz.

"I started to think about the shutout a little with a few minutes remaining in the game," said Klossner, "but that wasn't what was important today."

The second relegation round game will be played on Friday, and a possible third on Saturday. RISTO PAKARINEN




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