Canada secures its spot in gold medal game

A hat trick from Natalie Spooner leads Canada to a 5-3 victory over Finland

Canada's Jennifer Wakefield  takes a shot on goal in Sunday's game against Finland. (Tristan Davies/The Omega)

Canada’s Jennifer Wakefield takes a shot on goal in Sunday’s game against Finland. (Tristan Davies/The Omega)

Natalie Spooner broke out of her mini slump at just the right time for Team Canada. The forward scored her first goal of the tournament and then added two more in the game to help Canada defeat Finland 5–3, sending them to the gold medal game in the process.

Canada started the game with all the confidence you would expect from a team that beat their opponent 6–1 just three days ago. However, any thoughts that this game would be an easy win like Thursday night were banished from the crowd’s minds when Finland shocked the 4,000 fans in attendance at the Sandman Centre by scoring a goal with just their second shot of the game.

The goal added a sense of urgency to the contest and the Canadians visibly stepped up their play. The ensuing pressure rattled Team Finland and led to them taking a penalty with eight minutes left in the period.

The Canadian power play needed just 35 seconds to level the game. A shot from the point was tipped in front of the net by Spooner, giving the forward her first goal of the tournament.

The goal seemed to lift Spooner in particular, and she looked dangerous every time she touched the puck for the remainder of the game.

“I feel like I’ve had so many chances throughout the tournament and just couldn’t bury so it was nice to finally get a few today going into tomorrow for sure,” Spooner said.

The intermission could not have come at a better time for Team Finland. They got the chance to regroup from the Canadian onslaught and came out for the second period determined to turn the tide of the game.

The first 10 minutes of the period were back and forth with the underdog Finns going toe-to-toe with Team Canada.

When Team Canada captain Marie-Philip Poulin took a penalty for bodychecking with nine minutes left in the frame, Finland was almost able to take advantage. Only a great glove save from Charline Labonté stopped them from taking the lead.

(Kim Anderson/The Omega)

(Kim Anderson/The Omega)

“We knew that Finland was going to give us a game. We knew it would be close and they weren’t going to give up. They gave it their all and we just kept calm, kept to the game plan and came out on top,” said Team Canada forward Meghan Agosta.

Canada was able to gain back the momentum after they killed off the penalty. The rest of the period was a constant assault on the net guarded by Meeri Räisänen.

Just after a Finnish penalty had expired, a shot from the point by Canada was banged into the back of the net by Agosta, giving Canada their first lead of the game with just three minutes left in the second period.

Spooner would strike again just five minutes into the third period. She gathered the puck while short-handed and flew past the Finnish defence before lifting the puck past a helpless Räisänen.

Eight minutes before the end of the game is when things got really interesting. Finland was on the power play and, in a desperation move, pulled their goalie to give them a 6 on 4 advantage with lots of time left on the clock.

“At that point we can’t really look at what’s open at the far end, we just need to stay calm, kill off the penalty and that’s what we did,” Agosta said.

While Canada was able to kill off that penalty they quickly found themselves short-handed again. Yet once again Finland threw caution to the wind, pulling their goalie. This time the tactic worked for Finland and they were able to cut the Canadian advantage to just one with five minutes left in the game.

It seemed like this strategy was going to be able to pull Finland right back into the game when Canada found themselves short-handed again with just three minutes left. The risky strategy finally backfired however as Blayre Turnbull was able to fire a shot from inside her own blueline into the wide-open Finnish net.

“It was just a good play by Fortino just to get a bump on her man and get the puck out to me and then I just picked my head up, saw the open net and took a whack at it,” Turnbull said.

Now down two goals, Finland was committed to the strategy and pulled the goalie again, allowing Spooner a wide open path to the net for her hat trick goal, making the score 5–2 for Canada.

A late Finnish goal would make the scoreline a more respectable 5–3 final.

The win sends Canada to the gold medal game taking place April 4.

As with every other women’s hockey world championship the final game will be a contest between the two biggest rivals in the sport, Teams Canada and USA.

“We know what USA is going to throw at us and we’re willing to do whatever it takes. We’re ready, it’s our time,” said Agosta of the gold medal contest.