Canada opens women’s hockey worlds with win over Finland

Canada's Blayre Turnbull (40) and Finland's Viivi Vainikka (24) battle for the puck during second period hockey action at the IIHF Women's World Hockey Championship in Utica, N.Y., Thursday, April 4, 2024. (CP/Christinne Muschi)

Julia Gosling scored in her world championship debut and teammate Ella Shelton had a goal and two assists for Canada in a 4-1 win over Finland to open the women’s world hockey championship Thursday

Gosling’s goal with 32 seconds remaining in the second period was pivotal for Canada, which took a 3-1 lead into the third.

The 23-year-old from London, Ont., made her world championship debut alongside her cousin Nicole, who is a defender on the Canadian team. 

Gosling’s parents, siblings and a few college teammates from St. Lawrence were also at the Adirondack Bank Centre to witness it.

“I wasn’t even thinking about the score at the time,” Gosling said. “We were just rolling and it was a big goal, just at the end of the second period. You get momentum and bring that into the third period, so I think it was crucial for our team.”

Brianne Jenner and Emma Maltais also scored for Canada, which had 18 hours to recover before the puck dropped on its second game of the tournament Friday afternoon against Switzerland (0-1).

Ann-Renee Desbiens made 33 saves to improve to a career 36-7 with the national women’s team.

Petra Nieminen scored for Finland (0-2) St. Cloud State University goaltender Sanni Ahola stopped 32 shots for the Finns after a 29-save performance in a 4-0 loss to Czechia the previous day.

The Finns played a stronger game against Canada than they had against the Czechs, while Canadian head coach Troy Ryan felt his squad was minus a few elements.

“Poor puck management at times through the neutral zone,” Ryan said. “I don’t think we ever really got our legs under us. I just said to the group in there if you give up 34 shots and take six penalties, you know you’re not doing the right things.

“We just need to be more aggressive defensively, but also just manage the puck a little bit better offensively.”

The fourth-line tenacity of Gosling, Kristin O’Neill and Danielle Serdachny produced an important insurance goal, however. 

After forcing an offensive-zone turnover, O’Neill drove to the backboards and dished the puck back to Gosling for the rookie to go forehand to backhand and score.

“I thought O’Neill, she was probably the most solid out of anybody tonight,” Ryan said. 

Canada led 1-0 and 3-1 at period breaks. The Canadians were scoreless on a pair of power-play chances in the first period and held Finland to 0-for-3 in the second.

Ahola was pulled for an extra attacker with five minutes left in the game, but a Noora Tulus slashing minor sent the goalie back to the net. 

Ahola was trying to recover in a goal-mouth scramble when Shelton roofed the puck for a power-play goal at 17:40.

Roughing and hooking penalties to Canada’s Jocelyne Larocque and Jamie Bourbonnais, and with Ahola out of the net again, gave the Finns a six-on-three for the final 12 seconds.

MANAGING POULIN

Captain Marie-Philip Poulin returned to Canada’s lineup Thursday after sitting out an 8-2 pre-tournament win over Finland in Kingston, Ont. Poulin missed PWHL Montreal’s last three games before the international break with an undisclosed injury.

Ryan limited Poulin’s minutes against Finland to ease her into the tournament. Sarah Nurse occasionally filled in on the top line alongside Brianne Jenner and Sarah Fillier.

“I just tried to roll through the lines a little bit, obviously trying to keep Poulin around the 12-minute mark, so that kind of disconnects things a little bit as well,” he said. “Just trying to manage the bench so we’re in a good situation tomorrow.”

The Canadians will cap Group A games with another back-to-back Sunday afternoon against Czechia and Monday evening against the United States.

In other games Thursday, China edged Japan 3-2 in a shootout and Germany downed Denmark 5-1 in Group B.

The tournament’s top five seeds in Group A and the top three from Group B advance to the April 11 quarterfinals. The semifinals are April 13 and the medal games April 14.

Canada has won 12 gold medals in 22 women’s world hockey championship held since 1990. Canadian teams have reached the final in all but one. The U.S. defeated host Canada 6-3 in last year’s final in Brampton, Ont.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.