By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com
Finland’s national women’s team picked up right where it left off, winning all three games at a 4 Nations event in Sweden this weekend.
Finland, Germany, Russia and Sweden and all played three games in three nights in an event intended to give their respective coaches a sense of where their rosters stand heading into this critical Olympic season.
The European nations aren’t centralizing the way Canada and the United States are, so every chance they have to play games and assess talent is all the more important before PyeongChang in February 2018.
All games but one followed a familiar pattern which saw the team that scored first go on to win the game. The lone exception was the final game of the weekend, a narrow 3-2 win for Sweden over Russia.
Russia jumped into a 2-0 lead early in the second on goals from veterans Olga Sosina and Yelena Dergachyova, but the home side fought back with two power-play goals. Annie Svedin got the first and Emmy Alasalmi got the equalizer midway though the third. Johanna Olofsson then scored the winner with less than two minutes to go.
Recall that the Finns beat Canada, put a scare into the U.S., and won an impressive bronze at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, USA this past April. The team in Eskilstuna was similar in make-up to the April roster, including goalie Noora Raty and captain Jenni Hiirikoski.
Sweden finished with two wins and a loss while Russia had one win. The tournament was an eye-opener for the Germans, who lost all three games. Under the enthusiasm of coach Benjamin Hinterstocker, the team finished an impressive fourth in Plymouth, winning three of its first four games and providing a welcome breath of fresh air all tournament.
But they are no longer a surprise, and it’s clear Hinterstocker has his work cut out for him if the team is going to perform equally well in Korea. Indeed, the team scored but one goal in three games in Eskilstuna, that by 16-year-old defender Franziska Brendel in a 3-1 loss to Russia.
More telling were shots on goal. The Germans were outshot 45-8 by Sweden, 39-16 by Russia, and 54-9 by Finland. To get 33 shots in three games will not be enough at the Olympics, but at least the Germans know where they stand and what work lies ahead.
The Germans were also the youngest team, with an average age of just 20.9. Again, this is both a strength and weakness, their future looking great but their inexperience a fault for the immediate future.
Three of the top-four scorers in the tournament were Finns. Michelle Karvinen had two goals and six points to lead all players and Riikka Valila and Hiirikoski had four points, as did Russian forward Olga Sosina. Sosina and Susanna Tapani of Finland were the only players to score three goals.
Sweden’s only loss was to Finland, 4-0, but it continues to feature a young roster that seems to be improving with every outing. Many of its senior players have two or more years of play at the U18 level on their resume and might well be ready to come into their own this season, namely Lisa Johansson, Sara Hjalmarsson, and the aforementioned Alasalmi.
Sweden’s Damkronorna some weeks earlier played two exhibition games at one of the Olympic venues in Gangneung and beat host Korea 3-0 and 4-1.