April 03, 2016 - 8:30 AM
KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Finland has been spoiling for an upset of Canada in women's hockey on "one beautiful night," says Finnish coach Pasi Mustonen.
There would be no beauty in that result for the host country when Canada and Finland meet in Sunday's semifinal at the 2016 women's world hockey championship at Kamloops, B.C.
The winner advances to Monday's championship game at the Sandman Centre. Russia and defending champion United States square off in Sunday's other semifinal.
Finland has never beaten Canada in international women's hockey, although the two countries contested some tight games over the years.
Canada needed empty-net goals to put them away 3-1 at the 2014 Four Nations Cup in Kamloops and also 2-0 in a world championship round-robin game in 2011. The two countries played to a 6-6 tie in an exhibition game back in 1999.
"Let's say we play 10 games, we can take one," Mustonen said. "One beautiful night, that night comes. Why not on Sunday?
"We have nothing to lose. The Canadians have everything to lose. That's a catastrophe if they (lose). They know it and we know it. It's a wonderful starting point for the game."
But the Canadians are coming off a textbook performance against the Finns in a 6-1 preliminary-round victory Thursday. Canada will go back to their playbook again in the second of back-to-back games against last year's bronze medallists.
Captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored 64 seconds after puck drop Thursday to poke a hole in both Finland's enthusiasm and goaltender Meeri Raisanen's confidence.
The Canadians scored four goals in the second period, which has been a weakness for Finland's defence when they get caught on the long line change.
Once a team that put all effort into defence against Canada, the Finns do engage the Canadians in all three zones more since 2014. Finland is still a trapping team requiring patience and perseverance to get the puck into the offensive zone.
"Any time you play a team a second time, both teams will learn from video, which always makes it that much more challenging," Canadian head coach Laura Schuler said.
"I don't think their game through the neutral zone is going to change. We're going to have to have an emphasis on our neutral zone play to get through that for sure."
Raisanen had 49 saves in a 2-1 loss to the Americans in the preliminary round. She was pulled after giving up five goals on 32 shots in two periods against Canada.
The 26-year-old played 10 games for the Finnish men's third-division team D-Kiekko this past season in addition to her work with her women's club team.
"We have a team that believes that we have a chance if everything goes well," Raisanen said. "We have to believe so there is a reason to fight."
Schuler didn't reveal Canada's starter for Sunday. Emerance Maschmayer of Bruderheim, Alta., went 2-0, including a 36-save against the Americans, and veteran Charline Labonte of Boisbriand, Que., was 1-0 in the preliminary round.
The Finns will attempt to contain Canada's top line of Poulin, Megan Agosta and Natalie Spooner, but they lacked the defensive depth to also handle Jennifer Wakefield, Rebecca Johnston and Brianne Jenner on Thursday when that trio combined on four goals.
"We know they can clog the middle. It might be hard for us to get in their zone," Poulin said. "It's a game of patience and we have to stay composed."
A quick look at Canada's semifinal against Finland at the women's world hockey championship Sunday:
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jennifer Wakefield — Finland couldn't contain her in the preliminary round as five-foot-10 power forward from Pickering, Ont., scored twice in a four-point night.
Marie-Philip Poulin — Canada's golden goaler at the last two Winter Olympics scored 64 seconds after puck drop against the Finns.
Megan Agosta — Ranks second to Wakefield on the Canadian team in shots on net with 15, but is still looking for her first goal of the tournament.
Michelle Karvinen — Finland's top playmaker is creative, smart and experienced.
Meeri Raisanen — Following in the footsteps of predecessor Noora Raty, goalie is capable of making Canada sweat for goals.
Petra Nieminen — Sixteen-year-old Finnish forward "a rising star who is going to be a world star if she stays healthy," according to coach Pasi Mustonen.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Canada — Be patient in the face of Finland's trap, stay out of the penalty box and score early to take away hope of an upset.
Finland — Get top-notch goaltending from Raisanen, score power-play goals and don't get caught defensively in the second period on a long line change.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016