Day: August 27, 2019

Lionesses top of Europe

Petra Nieminen was the tournament’s scoring leader and scored twice in Finland’s win in the deciding game against Russia

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The Finnish women’s national team cemented its position as top European team when Finland hosted the first tournament of the Euro Hockey Tour in Vierumaki, Kerava and Mikkeli. All games ended with happy faces for the host nation.

“Overall, this was a good week for us,” captain Jenni Hiirikoski told leijonat.fi. “There were many games, there were new girls involved and every game turned out to be a win. It’s tough to achieve.”

The key win came on the last day against its closest follower Russia. Despite being outshot 28-18, Finland won 4-2 with two goals from Petra Nieminen. With five goals and two assists Nieminen was the scoring leader of the tournament. Defender Hiirikoski also had seven points.

“Both of our goaltenders played a really good week,” Hiirikoski said and also praised the fruitful power play. Meeri Raisanen had a 97.4% save percentage, her teammate Eveliina Suonpaa was third with 92.0%, with Japan’s Nana Fujimoto (94.9%) in between.

For Finland it was the first tournament on home ice since the successful hosting of the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship where the lionesses came to historic heights with a silver-medal finish. It’s also a season that will see new players making their Women’s Worlds debut at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Halifax and Truro, Canada, since Venla Hovi, Riikka Sallinen and Linda Valimaki ended their careers.

Defenders Sini Karjalainen (20), Aino Karppinen (21), Sanni Rantala (17); and forwards Ida Kuoppala (19), Julia Liikala (18), Matilda Nilsson (22), Jenniina Nylund (20) and Emilia Vesa (18) were the eight rookies on the 24-player roster who have never played for the senior team at the Women’s Worlds or Olympics before.

Head coach Pasi Mustonen praised the young team while not hiding that there’s still work ahead as they are just at the beginning of their journey. This was shown in the tight game with Russia.

“We have young players who only know one direction – offence. It is understandable that they are not fully able to read the game yet. 5-on-5 Russia was clearly better than us. We won the game because [our goaltender] Eveliina Suonpaa kept us in the game and our power play, which has been excellent all week, was once again effective,” Mustonen said after the last game.

The tournament needed some reshuffling after Sweden cancelled its participation due to disagreements between the federation and the players about compensations and other issues that are now being discussed. Good news was announced on Friday with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association and the (men’s) Swedish Hockey League to invest SEK 400,000 (€43,000) a year for the compensation for loss of earnings when players join the national team camps with additional money for the development of elite women’s ice hockey coming from the association.

The tournament continued with host Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia as European teams as well as Japan with each team having four games counting to the standings. Finland played against its Russian neighbors twice and had earlier won the first game 3-0 while also beating the Czech Republic (9-2) and Japan (3-1).

Russia finished the tournament in second place. While they couldn’t overcome Finland, they beat both Japan (2-0) and the Czech Republic (6-1) in the other games.

Japan was third with its only two victories against winless Czech Republic, 2-0 and 6-3. Hanae Kubo became the best non-Finnish scorer of the tournament with two goals and two assists.

The Czechs finished the tournament in last place without points and a 6-23 goal record. It was an under performing week for them after the 6th-place finish at the recent Women’s Worlds where the Czechs had beaten Japan 3-1.

Finland’s Meeri Raisanen and Jenni Hiirikoski won the individual awards as best goaltender and defender respectively, Russia’s Olga Sosina was voted best forward.

The next tournaments will happen during the November international break where Sweden is scheduled to host Canada, Finland and the United States for a Four Nations Tournament in Lulea, 5-9 November. The same week Russia will host the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland in Dmitrov in the Moscow Region.

Russia tops the charts in Perm

Grigori Denisenko (left), who was named best forward of the tournament, and Kirill Marchenko (right) helped Russia win the tournament on home ice in Perm

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Russia’s juniors came out on top in the first U20 Four Nations’ tournament of the season in Perm. The young Red Machine edged in front of the Czech Republic after both teams finished on six points. Russia topped the table by virtue of its opening 4-1 victory over the Czechs, who came second after wins against Finland and Sweden. The Finns secured third place with a 4-2 win against Russia on the last day, while Sweden’s solitary point arrived in an overtime loss against its Nordic neighbour.

The first game of the contest proved to be decisive. Russia’s win over the Czechs tipped the balance in the tie break. The victory owed much to the revived combination of Pavel Dorofeyev, Grigori Denisenko and Ivan Morozov, which had a hand in three of the goals. The trio represent different KHL organisations – Magnitogorsk, Yaroslavl and St. Petersburg respectively – but have often played together at different age groups within the national program in Russia.

“We played all three games on a single line,” Dorofeyev told FHR.ru. “I’ve played with them since we were kids so we can do a lot together. Of course, it’s good to get back to playing with them again after a bit of a break.”

Russia’s second game was a tight affair. Maxim Sorkin’s first-period goal was enough to beat Sweden 1-0 and the CSKA prospect admitted his team made hard work of seeing off the Swedes.

“In the first two periods we couldn’t wake up, our game didn’t flow, the puck wouldn’t go to the stick,” he said. “It was only in the third period that we played more or less OK. Luckily we got a goal in the first period, albeit a bit of a freakish one, and managed to close out the win.”

That result ensured that Russia would top the group regardless of the outcome against Finland and the final gameday saw the host nation defeated 2-4 by the Finnish lions. For head coach Valeri Bragin, who went into the tournament talking about the need for many emerging players to prove themselves at the start of the selection process for this season’s IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic, it was a somewhat frustrating finish to an encouraging competition.

“The most important thing is that we won [the tournament],” he said. “We played well, including against Finland where we had two very good periods. We tried to play aggressive, attacking hockey but our finishing let us down a little in the end, plus we allowed some soft goals at the other end.

“As far as the roster is concerned, we’ll need to analyse that more closely. Nobody dropped out of contention. Sure, some players were a bit brighter than others but, on the whole, the team was fairly even.”

The individual awards saw Daniel Dvorak (CZE) take the best goalie prize, Santeri Hatakka (FIN) claim best D-man and Grigori Denisenko (RUS) named best forward. Samuel Salonen (FIN) was the leading scorer in the competition. Dvorak, a 19-year-old from Hradec Kralove, was the Czech man-of-the-match against Russia, where his 27 saves kept his team in the game for long periods. He also played in the win over Sweden that secured second place and established himself as a serious challenger to Lukas Dostal for the #1 role on the Czech Junior roster.

Russia’s decision to stage the tournament in Perm, a city in the Northern Urals often described as the Easternmost in Europe, was a new departure. The local team, Molot-Prikamie, has not played in the Russian top league since 2005/06 and the 6,000-seater Molot Arena rarely sees international stars, past, present or future. The games were taken here as part of the Russian Hockey Federation’s efforts to broaden the geographical spread of hockey across the country, and the initiative got the thumbs up from the players.

“It was a good set-up for us here,” said Denisenko. “The fans really got behind us, it was like having a sixth skater on the ice. To be honest, I didn’t expect such an enthusiastic audience for hockey here.”

Head coach Bragin added: “The whole tournament was played in a great atmosphere. We made sure that people in this region could fall in love with hockey and I’m glad we came to play here. I hope we managed to entertain the fans. I’d like to say a big thank to everyone for the lively support we had in the arena. It was like a breath of fresh air, and it gave our players strength.”