Minnamari Tuominen.

Minnamara aka Minttu wrote for WINIH during the 4 Nations Cup. Here is her report the team and playing vs Canada.

Minttu Tuominen Nov. 9th. 2011.
Finland 0 vs. Canada 5 at the 4 Nations Cup.

I usually play center on the team but sometimes (quite rarely) they put me on the wing. I played my first games on the national team in 2008 but didn't make it to the World Championships in 2009. I was selected to the Olympic team in 2010 but didn't see much ice time, in contrast to 2011 when I had a totally different role on the team.

Our game prep is pretty normal I'd say. We play keep-ups ( keep the ball in the air with a paddle as long as you can) for a while with a good group of people, while some just listen to the music and tape their sticks in the locker room. Once it's the time, a staff member leads us through the warm-up which consists of a jog, some coordination drills, dynamic stretching, sprints and so forth. Then we have a little time on our own before heading to the locker room.

Our captain is defender Jenni Hiirikoski, she plays in Russia. Assistant captains are defender Essi Hallvar from Espoo and forward Nina Tikkinen from Oulu. Not much was said by the players before the game, the coaches did most of the talking.

The coach always has very inspirational speeches in the locker room before the game. He was talking about how we don't play these games against Canada too often so it's a unique opportunity to show how much we have improved since the last encounter. And he said we need to learn to win against these teams. For example in the 8 Nations Cup in September we had the chance but we weren't able to pull off the win. To win the whole game we need to win small things in the game, like winning face-offs, winning 1 on 1s, getting to the loose puck first, scoring on your chances. I felt confident and as a team we really wanted to show everyone what we are capable of. There was some nervousness around before the game.

This is the third year on the team for our coach Pekka Hämäläinen. He brought a new style to our play during the Olympic year, and is willing to develop young players that want to get to the top. Players are now more motivated to train because the competition is harder and they know they get rewarded for their hard work. Pekka has a lot of confidence in us players and the system.

The 4 Nations Cup is very important to Finland. Like I said earlier, we don't get to play too many games against Canada and USA, so this is a great opportunity to play at a high level. We are not happy with the third place anymore - we want better results and we know we are capable of beating either of these teams when we play well.

We started off slow and weren't fully ready in the first period. We also got many penalties which made the game harder for us. Towards the end of the game we got better and were able to generate some chances. Of course we were feeling down after the loss, especially since it wasn't our best game, but the coach said there was a lot of positive things. After all, we know we can play better than that and really challenge this team.

For our goalie, Bella Portnoj, this was the first game on the women's national team after playing with the U-18s for the past year, and she is still eligible for the next U-18 World Championships. She had a solid game and cannot be blamed for the goals that went in. We also did pretty well on the penalty kill with Canada generating from only one of their six power plays.

As always, Canada was skating very well. They were also able to get the rebounds and scored gritty goals on us. What made me frustrated was the amount of penalties we got, though I think it gave us some confidence since penalty kill is one of our strengths as a team.

We need to be ready from the very first face-off till the last second of the third period. We need to keep our confidence level high no matter what happens, and learn from our mistakes. I feel like whenever we were on the Cdn player carrying the puck right away, they could not generate opportunities and that is what we need to keep doing throughout the whole game.