Canada rebounds to edge Finland at women's hockey worlds
Canada's performance was uneven, but their 3-2 win over Finland was important psychologically at the women's world hockey championship Sunday.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Canada took their worst beating ever from the U.S. in a 9-2 loss to open the tournament.
That debacle could have demoralized the Canadians.
Their mental training consultant, Dr. Peter Jensen, told the team prior to Sunday's game to not give the loss to the U.S. more significance that it deserved.
"He said 'we don't want to overpay for the loss yesterday' and what he meant by that was overpay and give away our confidence," explained assistant captain Caroline Ouellette.
"We just had a really, really bad day, probably one of the worst I've had in my career on the national team. We didn't want to dwell on it and think about it today. It was important for us to move on quickly."
The Montreal native, defenceman Laura Fortino of Hamilton and Gillian Apps of Unionville, Ont., scored for Canada at the University of Vermont's Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Canada outshot the Finns 43-15. As she's done in recent games against Canada, Finland goaltender Noora Raty gave her country a chance at an upset. Raty made 40 saves, even though she's not completely healthy.
Raty backstopped Minnesota to an NCAA women's championship last month and was injured in the Golden Gophers post-game celebration.
"I got stuck under a pile [of bodies] and my whole body was under 200 pounds, so it wasn't too fun," Raty said. "It's no secret that I'm a little injured here. I still can play and play pretty well."
Even-strength, Canada spends most of a game against Finland in their end.
The Finns' strategy for beating Canada is for Raty to make a high volume of saves, play ferocious defence in front of her and rely on a power-play or broken-play goal for the win. While that hasn't resulted in a win yet, they're becoming more effective at it.
"Usually they have more speed than we do," Raty said. "We battled and we were in the game the whole time.
"I actually thought they would be more motivated for this game. They got beat 9-2 and we knew they were going to come hard in the first, but then they slowed down and we actually played really well."
Venla Hovi scored short-handed and Karoliina Rantamaki added a power-play goal for the Finns.
Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados played part of the first period against the U.S., before Charline Labonte went back in the game. Edmonton's Szabados made 13 saves in Sunday's win.
"Those are tough games for a goalie," Szabados said. "She was playing so well and at the same time, they're a skilled team so we know and I know if they get an opportunity they can bury it."
Head coach Dan Church confirmed forward Haley Irwin is out for the tournament with an ankle sprain she suffered in the first period against the Americans.
Under the new tournament format, the top two teams in Canada's Pool A earn byes to the semifinals. The bottom two meet the top two from Pool B in the quarter-finals.
Canada (1-1) needs a win over Russia (0-2) on Tuesday to secure a bye to the semifinals.
"We want to keep in contention for one of the top two spots in the pool and you had to win this game to be able to do that," Church said.
The U.S. (2-0) beat Russia 9-0 in Sunday's other Pool A game and outshot them 54-5.
In Pool B, Sweden edged Germany 2-1 in overtime and Switzerland doubled Slovakia 2-1 in regulation. The Swedes topped the pool with a win and an overtime win, ahead of Germany with a victory and an overtime loss. Switzerland was 1-1 and the Slovaks were winless in two games.
Scoring on Raty requires patience and the Canadians showed that for the most part.
"You do have to be patient, let the puck do the work and get her to move side to side and get an opportunity and capitalize," captain Hayley Wickenheiser said. "With goaltending like that, it'll be tough to get eight goals. She keeps it close. Otherwise, it's a 10-nothing game."
Canada had defensive lapses. They were called for half a dozen stick infraction and let Hovi score short-handed on a breakaway.
"We had moments where I really liked how we were playing and moving the puck," Church observed. "There were maybe 10 or 15 minutes where we got away from our game slightly. It's just execution of our systems, I think, that has to be polished."
Church planned to give the Canadians a day off from the ice Monday, although they'll do a dryland workout.
"Managing rest in this tournament is really important," he said.