Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Playing women’s hockey powers always a learning experience for Finland

Netminder Noora Raty made 44 saves on Tuesday for Finland.
    Venla Hovi doesn’t shy away from the obvious, when it comes to Finland’s women’s national women’s hockey team.
    When her Finnish side plays either the United State or Canada, the veteran winger knows her side is in for a huge challenge. The odds of coming out with a win are heavily weighted in the favour of the two traditional powerhouse nations in women’s hockey.
    With that in mind, Hovi said gaining the experience of playing those two squads is always huge for the players that play for her country’s national team.
    “I think for a lot of players especially who play in the Swedish or in the Finnish league, the pace is obviously not like this,” said Hovi, who stands 5-foot-7. “It is kind of mental game to you know get your system going and knowing that you need to move the puck faster.
Brianna Decker had a goal for the United States.
    “You need to react faster all the time (and) have your head on a swivel to kind of know who is coming behind you. It is just mostly like mentally just preparing at the speed and pace will be faster than usual.”
    In the opening game of the 4 Nations Cup tournament on Tuesday afternoon at the SaskTel Centre, Finland took on the United States, but it took a while before the predictable result occurred.
    The Finns took a 1-0 lead at the 11:59 mark of the first period on a goal from Hovi’s line. Right-winger Emma Nuutinen came through with the goal, and centre Tanja Niskanen and defender Nelli Laitnen picked up the assists.
    Finland’s lead held up after the first period ended, where the United State held a 9-3 edge in shots on goal.
    In the second, the U.S.A. juggernaut awoke. The States score five times in the second period and cruised to a 5-1 victory.
    Dani Cameranesi, Sydney Brodt, Hilary Knight, Cayla Barnes and Brianna Decker all netted singles for the U.S.A.
The United States celebrates one of their second period goals.
    Noora Raty was sensational making 44 saves to take the setback in goal for Finland.
    Maddie Rooney turned away nine shots to pick up the win in goal for the States.
    Hovi, who helped the University of Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey team win a U Sports national title last March, said it was a big thing for her side to lead the game for as long as they did. The 31-year-old said you could tell the mood was possible for an upset the longer Finland stayed ahead.
    “Obviously the longer we get to carry it, they will get frustrated,” said Hovi. “They always have chances.
    “They can’t score right off the hop, and the longer we go, there is some frustrations, so it is obviously good for us. We just need to fix our second period. It has been our problem for a while.
    “We need to concentrate on that.”
    On an obvious front, teams like Finland don’t have the depth the United States or Canada does.
Venla Hovi, left, sets a screen in front of the United States goal.
    Hovi has been a standout herself for some time. She helped her country win two bronze medals at the Winter Olympics including 2010 in Vancouver B.C., and last February in PyeongChang, South Korea.
    As rookie with the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Hovi has two goals and four assists in her first six games.
    Overall, she liked her team’s effort on Tuesday. Finland had some absences due to the flu. The Finns were two skaters short of the full complement of 18.
Hannah Brandt (#20) of the United States battles a Finnish centre for a draw.
  “It was a good battle,” said Hovi. “We were missing a lot of players.
    “We don’t play with three lines usually, so it was obviously physically harder to. We usually run four lines, but now we’re kind of waiting for some of those players to be able to play.”
    In the setback, she said her side did a lot of positive things.
   “I think we defended really, really hard in the first and the third period (and) blocked the middle,” said Hovi, who is also an assistant coach with the Bisons women’s team this season. “Every time we got the puck, we moved it fast.
    “I thought it was a great team effort. Like I said, we need to fix the second period and be more ready in our D-zone.”
Finnish goalie Noora Raty covers the puck during a net scramble.
    Finland returns to action at the 4 Nations Cup on Wednesday, when they face Sweden at 3 p.m.
The United States faces Canada on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
    The 4 Nations Cup runs in its entirety at the SaskTel Centre with the medal round games being held on Saturday.

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