PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Finland believed they could beat Canada in women’s hockey.
They proved it Saturday with a 4-3 upset of the Canadians at the women’s world hockey championship.
The closest Finland had come previously to victory was a 6-6 tie in an exhibition game in 1999.
Ronja Savolainen scored the winner at 18:19 of the third period. Her shot squeaked under the pad of Genevieve Lacasse as the Canadian goaltender slid towards her right post.
The Finns mobbed goaltender Noora Raty for a team hug after the game, but their celebration was curiously short-lived after an historic win.
"The Finns are kind of never too high, never too low. We’re pretty neutral," Raty said. "We don’t show much emotions, whereas North Americans are really rowdy and loud and that’s their style."
Finland has beaten the U.S. before at the 2008 world championship and also in a pre-Olympic tournament game in 2009.
The Canadians had been tough to topple because of their strong team game, Raty said.
"It’s huge for our confidence," said the 13-year veteran of the Finnish team. "We’ve known it’s close, but it’s just been close. We finally did it, so now we know we can do it.
"We’re not just saying we can beat them because we actually beat them."
Canada (0-2) concludes the preliminary round in Pool A on Monday against Russia (1-1). Finland (1-1) takes on defending champion U.S. (2-0).
Canada must beat the Russians to still have a chance at a bye to the semifinals.
If the U.S. goes 3-0 and three countries are tied at 1-2 in Pool A, it comes down to goal differential as to which country joins the U.S. in earning the bye. The other two play in Tuesday’s quarter-finals.
Canada lost 2-0 to the Americans to open the tournament Friday. Against the Finns, Canada again didn’t pay the physical price to get to the net enough.
"I don’t even think we were thinking about the historical aspect of it," forward Brianne Jenner said. "We’re giving it our all right now and we’re not clicking. We’re just really struggling right now.
"This is a really resilient group. I think we’re going to find a way to come back, but it doesn’t feel great right now. Those are two games where we just struggled to find the chemistry."
The Finns have been closing the gap on the Canadians the last two years engaging them in all three zones, instead of putting all their efforts into defence and hoping for a lucky goal as once did.
Finland went for an upset of Canada in last year’s semifinal in Kamloops, B.C., pulling their goalie for an extra attacker on three power-play chances in the third period before falling 5-3.
A costly turnover by Canada in the first period and a soft goal by starter Emerance Maschmeyer in the second opened the door for Finland, who led 3-2 heading into the third.
Susanna Tapani, Petra Nieminen and Sanni Hakala also scored for the Finns, with Raty making 35 saves for the win. Marie-Philip Poulin, Blayre Turnbull and Rebecca Johnston replied for Canada.
Lacasse replaced Maschmeyer after Finland’s third goal. Maschmeyer allowed three goals on 11 shots, while Lacasse turned away 14-of-15 in relief.
Canada had a power play in the final minute and pulled Lacasse for a sixth skater, but couldn’t produce another equalizer.
Johnston pulled Canada even 36 seconds into the third period scoring five-hole on Raty.
Tapani re-directed a shot by Maschmeyer at 6:49 of the second to pull ahead 3-2. Canada’s Turnbull dropped to one knee and blasted the puck high over Raty at 4:21.
Nieminen skated out from the boards and rifled a sharp-angled shot by Maschmeyer’s shoulder for a power-play goal at 1:01.
The Finns struck first when Jenner turned the puck over in Canada’s zone. Hakala deflected Tapani’s shot from the point upstairs on Maschmeyer at 18:42 of the first period.
Canada tied it 17 seconds later when Poulin buried a rebound on an Erin Ambrose shot.
The U.S. blanked Russia 7-0 for their second shutout in as many days.
Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne each scored twice and Amanda Kessel also had a goal for the defending champions.
Madeline Rooney stopped all 14 shots she faced, while Maria Sorokina turned away 27 shots for Russia.
Promoted Germany won its second straight game Saturday, topping the Czech Republic 2-1 in Pool B. Sweden edged Switzerland 2-1 in regulation putting both teams at 1-1.