GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) – Noora Raty stopped 20 shots to lead Finland to a 3-2 victory over the Russians for the women’s hockey bronze medal on Wednesday, putting the Finns on the Olympic podium with the United States and Canada for the third time.
Petra Nieminen, Susanna Tapani and Linda Valimaki scored for Finland, which can claim for another Olympiad to be the best of the rest in a sport dominated by North Americans.
With Canada and the United States playing in the gold medal game on Thursday for the fifth time in six Winter Games, the tournament can be viewed as two overlapping events: One is a two-week slog until the North Americans play in the final, and the other is a six-team competition to claim the remaining spot on the podium.
For the third time, it’s Finland.
Following up their bronze medals in 1998 and 2010, the Finns beat Russia 5-1 in pool play but had a tougher go in the medal round. The teams were even in shots – 22-22 – but the Russians never led after falling behind 2-0 off the opening faceoff of the second period.
Lyudmila Belyakova had a goal and an assist, and Olga Sosina also scored for the “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” Both teams landed in the bronze medal match after losing 5-0 to a North American power.
The Finns took the lead two minutes into the game when Minnamari Tuominen flipped the puck in from the middle and Nieminen got enough of a tip on it to deflect it past Nadezhda Morozova.
The goalie saw more unwanted action midway through the period when she took a stick to the side and crumpled over in the crease, unable to get up until there was a whistle. The trainers came out to see her, but she remained in the game.
Just 10 seconds into the second period, Finland scored again when Michelle Karvinen skated toward the back of the net but backhanded it to Tapani in the slot for the goal. Sosina tied it for the Russians two minutes later, and then eight seconds later a Finland penalty gave them an opening to tie it.
But Raty, who once went 38-0 at the University of Minnesota, remained strong, and Finland killed off another penalty shortly after the first one expired. Linda Valimaki gave the Finns a 3-1 lead with eight minutes left in the second period, drawing the goalie to the left before sliding across the crease and putting the puck in the right side.
It stayed that way until there was 4:25 gone in the third, when Jenni Hiirikoski took a tripping penalty. Belykova sneaked past the defense to receive a pass as she crossed over the blue line, then went in on Raty alone to cut the deficit to one goal.
Russia’s best chance was when it picked up a power play with about five minutes later. But before it could mount a power play, Anna Shokhina inexplicably smacked a Finn on the helmet and went off for high sticking, leaving the teams at even strength.