By Martin Merk – IIHF.com
THE MEN’S ROSTER
The list of players includes 13 previous Olympic medalists – nine on the women’s and four on the men’s side. On the men’s squad players combine for 21 previous Olympic participation’s while the women’s squad will be more rejuvenated with nine players who will play their first Olympics.
16 of the 25 players on the men’s roster join from KHL teams including five from Jokerit Helsinki, the Finnish club in the Russian-based cross-border league. Six players play in the Finnish Liiga, two in Switzerland and one in Sweden.
Lasse Kukkonen is the most experienced player and will participate at the Olympics for the fourth time. He as well as Sami Lepisto (2010, 2014), Juuso Hietanen (2014) and Petri Kontiola (2014) have been part of the team that won bronze at the last Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament four years ago. The youngest players are 1999-born Miro Heiskanen and Eeli Tolvanen, who recently played at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“I have a good feeling with the team. The preparation went well and gives us confidence. We are aware of the good opportunity we have and we are ready to seize it,” head coach Lauri Marjamaki said.
Sochi 2014 finalist Sweden, Norway and Germany will be Finland’s opponents in Group C.
THE WOMEN’S ROSTER
On the women’s team goaltender Noora Raty and forward Riika Valila will play in their fourth Olympics. Valila will also write history as the oldest female athlete from Finland to compete in the Olympic Winter Games surpassing figure skater Ludowika Jakobsson. The 44-year-old originally retired from international ice hockey after playing at the 1998 and 2002 Olympics (under her maiden name Nieminen) but staged a comeback at the 2014 Olympics and has also played at the last three Women’s World Championships. With Petra Nieminen also the women’s team has a 1999-born player.
12 players join from Finnish clubs, seven play in the Swedish women’s hockey league, two join from college teams in Canada and the U.S. respectively and two play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League for Kunlun Red Star in Shenzhen, China.
“The team includes the best available players. The selection criteria were clear. They have to fit for the roles, adapt to the group, be in shape and have skill,” said head coach Pasi Mustonen.
Finland is seeded in the “upper” Group A with current world champion USA, defending Olympic champion Canada and the Russians. The top-two teams will receive a bye to the semi-finals while the bottom two teams have to play a qualification game against one of the top-two Group B teams. Finland’s declared goal is to win a medal.
With 45 hockey players, the sport of ice hockey will be prominent in the Finnish Olympic delegation of currently 61 athletes.