International Ice Hockey Federation

Finns finish fifth

Finns finish fifth

Disappointing sixth place for host Russia

Published 18.02.2014 23:53 GMT+4 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Finns finish fifth
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 18: Finland's Linda Valimaki #10 celebrates her first period goal against Russia's Anna Prugova #1 as Yekaterina Smolentseva #17, Alexandra Kapustina #44 looks on during women's classification round action at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Finishing fifth isn’t glorious, but Finland's women were still glad to end their Sochi stint on a winning note, beating Russia 4-0 on Tuesday at Shayba Arena.

"We came here to win a medal," said Finnish goalie Noora Raty. "No one can be happy from our team about finishing fifth. But at least we ended with a win. That hasn’t happened the last two years."

Both these nations fully expected to be in the 2014 Olympic bronze medal game instead of playing classification round games.

The host Russians took bronze at last year’s World Women’s Championship in Ottawa, and had upped their performance with better funding and training under their new general manager, ex-NHL star Alexei Yashin.

But at the end of the day, sixth place is exactly where they also finished at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics.

"Even though we didn’t come out with a medal or the outcome we wanted, personally, I’m just absolutely delighted that I had the experience of playing in the Olympics in my own country," said Russian assistant captain Yekaterina Pashkevich. "Our fans were absolutely unbelievable. They just supported us every step of the way. I wish we could have done better."

The Finns had either won bronze or finished fourth at every single Olympics or World Championship prior to Sochi, making this their worst result ever.

"We played our best 60 minutes against a European team," said Finnish head coach Mika Pieniniemi, who announced his resignation after one year. "This was my last game with the team, and the last few minutes were very emotional for me. I'm sure the team is going to get a good coach and new young players."

It’ll be a Switzerland-Sweden showdown for third place on Thursday, and PyeongChang is four long years away. It's tough to accept that reality after years of training.

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IIHF Hall of Famer Riikka Valila led the way with a goal and two assists, while Michelle Karvinen had two goals, and Linda Valimaki also scored for Finland.

"It’s been hard for us, physically and mentally, the last couple of days," said Karvinen. "I think we proved a lot today. We came out and finished this tournament the way we wanted. We didn’t reach our goal, but I think it showed a lot about our team spirit, what we did today."

Raty earned her second career Olympic shutout and seventh career win in what might be the final international appearance for the star 24-year-old Finnish goalie. Raty, a three-time Olympian, announced plans to retire from the national team after Finland’s 4-2 loss to Sweden in the quarter-finals.

Russia's hopes were dashed in a 2-0 quarter-final loss to Switzerland.

"I feel the game against Switzerland, we really dominated and created some chances, but their goalie performed well," said Pashkevich. "I don’t have a bad feeling that we didn’t give it all we had."

Against the Finns, Russia came out like gangbusters, urged on by loud chants of “Rossiya!” and “Shaibu!” But the crowd quieted down when, three and a half minutes in, forward Alexandra Vafina collided with a Finnish player in the neutral zone and fell awkwardly to the ice. She was helped off to the dressing room, but would return.

Raty made a great save on Russian captain Yekaterina Smolentseva’s shot from the slot midway through the first period.

The Finns drew first blood with 3:23 left in the opening frame. Venla Hovi’s high shot curved in from the right side and Valimaki was in front to deflect it past Russian netminder Anna Prugova.

Less than a minute later, Finland went up 2-0 as Susanna Tapani stickhandled beautifully from end to end and unleashed a quick shot, leaving a rebound for Valila to put inside Prugova’s left post.

In the second period, Raty shut the door again during some wild flurries on a Russian 4-on-3 power play.

Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski rang a slapper off the crossbar halfway through the game.

Just 2:30 into the third period, the Finns put the game out of reach when Valila hustled down right wing and sent a perfect centering pass to Michelle Karvinen, who went to the net with her stick on the ice and guided it into the open side.

A minute later, Karvinen added her second goal of the night and team-leading fifth goal overall on another Valila power-play set-up. The 23-year-old Danish-born forward also temporarily took over the tournament points lead with seven.

"It was awesome," Karvinen said of playing with Valila. "She’s so easy to play with. She reminds a little of myself. She likes to make plays. It was fun. I wish maybe it would have happened a little earlier in the tournament, because I think it could have created more goal-scoring opportunities for us."

Asked whether she'd consider returning for the 2018 Olympics, Valila said: "In four years, I’ll only be one year older than Teemu Selanne is now. It’s too early to think about that now. But I have learned to never say never."

After the 4-0 goal, Russian coach Mikhail Chekhanov called a timeout to regroup, but it apparently had little impact as the Finns promptly went back to the man advantage, and then retained their lead till the final siren.

Evaluating his team's tournament, Chekhanov said: "I'm not sure whether it was a back forward or backward, but at least we managed to reshape the team so it can play offensively. We did a step for the future, and we managed to close the gap against teams like Finland and Sweden."


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