4 Nations Preview: Bronze and Gold Medal Games

Bronze: Finland vs. Sweden

5 p.m. EST/2 p.m. PST

The Finns fell to Canada on Friday night, 3-1, in their final game of preliminary-round action. Goaltender Meeri Räisänen came up huge even in the loss, stopping 46 of 48 shots. Despite getting outplayed and outchanced, Finland kept it a tight game the whole way. It was a one-goal game or better for 52 minutes, 29 seconds, and the Finns had several quality chances to tie it throughout.

Sweden lost to the United States in their final game of round-robin play Friday afternoon, 3-0. Netminder Sara Grahn was the star once again for the Swedes, making a spectacular 47 saves on 50 shots. She kept it a one-goal game for awhile, before the Americans scored two in the last five and a half minutes of the second period to open up their 3-0 lead. Sweden has gotten fantastic goaltending from both Grahn and Marti’n Hasson, but they have yet to score a goal in this tournament.

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Finland beat Sweden in preliminary action on Wednesday afternoon, 1-0. The Finns outshot the Swedes 30-14 even without all-world forward Michelle Karvinen in the line-up. Minnamari Tuominen snapped a scoreless tie just over halfway through the third period to help Finland clinch the win. They’ve only scored two goals in the tournament, but the Finns’ offense has looked organized, and their top players have done a good job of creating quality scoring chances. Karvinen, Susanna Tapani, Riikka Välilä, and Saila Saari have all looked good offensively and should make an impact against Sweden today.

Unlike Team Finland, the Swedes haven’t looked very organized offensively, as their zero goals scored so far would hint at. They were heavily outplayed in their games against the U.S. and Canada, but they didn’t match up terribly, and managed things well enough to keep both games fairly close. Sweden just hasn’t made the most out of its chances, though the plays are there. Look for forwards Pernilla Winberg, Jenni Asserholt, and Erica Uden Johansson to be difference-makers this afternoon as they try to break out of their scoring funk and capture bronze.

Gold: Canada vs. United States

10 p.m. EST/7 p.m. PST

Canada finished first in the standings after going 3-0-0 in the round robin, and capped off preliminary-round play with a 3-1 win over Finland. Though the Finns certainly kept it close, and Räisänen frustrated the Canadians chance after chance, they showed good composure in coming out in the third period and finishing the job. The line of Jennifer Wakefield, Brianne Jenner, and Jillian Saulnier was particularly impressive in the win. Wakefield got Canada on the board first in the opening period and they created numerous chances and pressure throughout.

The U.S. completed the round robin with a 3-0 win over Sweden. Like the Canadians, the Americans had to fight through some excellent goaltending on Friday, but they found ways to convert on the chances they needed to and came away with the win. Hilary Knight, Brianne Decker, and Emily Pfalzer all scored for the U.S., and Shiann Darkangelo notched two assists in the game. It was a dominant on the part of the entire offense, as they outshot the Swedes 50-11.

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When the teams met on Wednesday in preliminary round action, it was Canada who finished on top, 3-2. The Canadians rallied late to overcome a 2-1 deficit in the final five minutes. Veterans Haley Irwin and Rebecca Johnston have led the way up front, but Jamie Lee Rattray was also impressive in the win over the U.S. I’d also expect to see some production out of Natalie Spooner, who has looked very good all tournament but has yet to get on the scoresheet. On the back-end, it’s the younger players who have stepped up; while the play of Jocelyne Larocque and Lauriane Rougeau left a little to be desired on Wednesday, the pairing of Halli Krzyzaniak and Courtney Birchard was outstanding.

For Team USA, rookies Dani Cameranesi and Shiann Darkangelo have made the most noise offensively. Each scored against Canada on Wednesday, and they’re tied for the team lead in scoring with four points each. The Americans didn’t play poorly in that game; in fact, the U.S. outshot the Canadians, 32-21. But a couple of defensive-zone breakdowns led to Canadian goals, and they couldn’t protect the late lead. As is usually the case between two teams so evenly matched, it’s more of a matter of execution than anything else. Olympic veterans Hilary Knight, Alex Carpenter, and Kendall Coyne need a bigger showing against Canada tonight, and Team USA’s defensemen could afford to be a little more active offensively as well.

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