Here is the final blog from the 4 Nations Cup on Saturday Nov 13,2010:
Our terrifying lost against the Canadians was mentally tough to handle but today, (Saturday) as the final day of the 4 Nations cup, we needed to gather ourselves and focus on the important game ahead of us. The coaches and the captains of the Team Finland decided together that rather than skating early in the morning it was good to take a break from the ice and do another activity. After a good breakfast we put on our track suits and running shoes on and hiked to Cape Spear, the farthest, eastern point in Canada.
The uphill climb was steep and made us sweat a bit and when we get to the top we did dynamic stretching exercises to get our bodies ready for the bronze game against Sweden later in the day.
There was time to take some beautiful pictures from the mountain as well as team pictures. We were picked up by a bus to get us back to hotel and the next few hours were for rest and preparation.
When we got to the rink all the players seemed to be more serious about showing up today. We needed a big improvement in our performance in addition to prove to everyone; mostly to ourselves that we are able to come back from a slump we had the day before against the big red (Canada). Though, during the on-ice warm up we were a little bit off, trying to force passes and shooting off the net, so as the captain of the team I told everyone just to relax and enjoy the game.
We got a good start of the bronze game as we jumped onto the scoreboard at the third minute of the game when Michelle Karvinen shot the puck and Karoliina Rantamaki put the rebound in. Soon after also Sweden had a chance; they got a penalty shot but Noora Raty was solid in the net and saved the attempt. In end of the first period Linda Valimaki scored for Team Finland, which ended up being the game-winning goal.
Team Sweden battled back to the game as Pernilla Winberg scored from the odd man rush in the third period. However, we had better control of the game and put a lot of pressure on their defense using the fore check and making quick transitions. Sweden tried to tie the game pulling the goalie out during the last minute of play but we controlled our nerves, kept our box tight not letting any quality shots come through. It was a great feeling to skate away with a win as a team and take the third place in the tournament.
Each of these national teams have faced changes and challenges in their programs. Sweden and Finland do not have a college hockey system for players to develop nor is the Swedish club league the same calibre as US college hockey. So players must leave their country for the best opportunity to train and compete.
Sweden’s current national team has 9 players training outside the country. Frida Nevalainen is playing in the Russian league for the Tornado team and Danijela Rundqvist made the Burlington, Ontario roster in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. The other 7 members dot the US college campuses including 3 at University of Minnesota-Duluth, UMD, 2 at Minnesota State and one each at Ohio State and Quinnipiac University (ECAC).
Finland has similar numbers with 7 members of their national team playing outside the country; 2 at University of Minnesota, 1 at UMD and Ohio State and two players who chose leagues in Germany and Russia. Saara Tuominen is currently playing with the Minnesota White Caps Club team in the US but is leaving to take on a new job in Finland.
Sweden’s new coach is Niclas Hogberg, formerly the Under 18 coach who replaced long-time coach Peter Elander now at University of North Dakota. Finland’s previous Hannu Saintula headed up China’s national team in 2009. Pekka Hämäläinen took the helm in 2009 after coaching the Under 18 women’s team the previous year. Finland won its second bronze medal at the 2010 Olympics.
The Finns and Swedes can’t begin to compete with Canada and US for many reasons but one can start by looking at their registration numbers which are: Sweden: 3,425 players with a population of 9,074,055 and Finland: 4,694 players with a population of 5,255,068. The interesting point about both these countries is how competitive their male players are. The registration is higher in male hockey but the funding, leadership and events completely outweigh the women in all these categories. Many of these comments arose at the World Hockey Summit in 2010 in Toronto. No figures were given at the time. The world watches and waits for these other hockey nations to put their funds and their leadership into action for the women’s game.
Tuesday Nov. 10, 2010
Two days down in the 4 Nations Cup in St. Johns, Newfoundland and I can already say based on my experience that Hockey Canada is doing a great job again hosting the tournament; all the arrangements have been excellent.
We are staying at the Sheraton Hotel about 10 minutes from the Mile One Arena. On Monday morning Team Finland skated for an hour and fifteen minutes and the team felt surprisingly fresh considering the fact that they arrived Sunday morning at 1am after traveling 28 hours from Finland via Frankfurt and Toronto. Sunday evening after a team meeting we were free to go shopping at the nearest mall. It was good to walk around and see the city; most of the team was suffering from a jetlag.
On Tuesday Nov. 9th we had a typical game skate in the morning and rest time during the day before we jumped on the bus for 2 hour ride to play our first game in Clarenville against Sweden. The games between Finland and Sweden are like the battles between USA and Canada. Since we are our neighbouring countries we always try to bring our A game against each other and there is a lot of pride involved.
Our first game was no an exception to this competitive tradition; the game was very competitive with both teams competing fiercely. During the first period the game was back and forth; end to end with both teams having a few good scoring chances. Kim Martin in the net for Sweden and Noora Räty for Finland handled all the shots. At the end of first period Sweden had a momentum when they got a 5-3 power play. After erasing that opportunity Finland got some scoring chances and netted two goals in the second period; I got one and Karoliina Rantamaki.
In the beginning of the third period Finland Michelle Karvinen scored the 3rd and final goal with the score 3-0 for Finland. She was also chosen Player of the Game for our team.
Tuesday night we face Team USA; before that we have a good rest and pre game skate to be ready for the challenge.
(Saara Tuominen played in both 2006 and 2010 Olympics for Team Finland and was also a standout for University of Minnesota-Duluth in US college hockey. She led her team to a national championship in 2006. Two years later she was one of the leading players as University of Minnesota-Duluth who won the National Collegiate Athletic Championship. She was the eighth player in Bulldog history to reach the 100 career point milestone, on Jan. 11, 2009. She will be blogging for WINIH.com during the 4 Nations Cup)
It is exciting time of the year as the world’s 4 best teams compete for the first time after Vancouver Olympics. Each team has added a few new names in the rosters, which is normal for the new Olympiad. Team Finland is no exception as few experienced players decided to retire after Olympics but fortunately we have some new talent we can break in.
We had two conditioning/testing camps this past summer and in early September we played 2 games against Sweden so there is no doubt that the young players have had some time to adjust to the team and get ready for this tournament.
Personally speaking leading up to the 4 Nations is quite a lot different for me. My eligibility to play US college hockey ran out and I am currently finishing up my studies at UMD graduating in December. After living four and a half years in the USA I am going back to Finland to play club team hockey again. I have few games under my belt with Minnesota White Caps so not feeling totally rusty going to the Four Nations Cup.
Maria Posa who is currently playing for University of Minnesota Duluth and I are meeting up with our teammates Nora Raty and Mira Jalosuo from University of Minnesota Gophers, Minttu Tuominen from Ohio State University, and Emmi Leinonen form Mankato University to travel together to St. Johns, Newfoundland on November 7th to meet the rest of the Finish crew there. Luckily we don’t have to deal with jet lag so should be fresh for our first game against Sweden on Nov.9th. New leadership is needed as Team Finland’s long term captain Emma Laaksonen is currently concentrating on work and school, only attending club team events. We are hoping to get her back as soon as her duties become a little bit less busy.
We have a few new young forwards Tanja Niskanen, Pia Lund, Nina Makinen, and Anne Tuomainen who have not played many women international games so far but each of them have lots of skill and can contribute to the team. In defense Tea Villila is the youngest but is playing very consistent already. Most of the retired players are still playing for club teams or having year off from hockey and most likely will be coming back for international competition at some point.