Having assembled a series of sensational performances at the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championships and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, Finland’s Anni Keisala established herself among the world’s finest goaltenders. Capturing bronze medals in each event, the successive podium finishes provided Keisala with a pair of career highlights poised to be treasured for the remainder of her career.
With a proud legacy of elite goaltending, from iconic figures such as Tuula Puputti and Noora Raty, to star players such as Anna Vanhatalo and Meeri Raisanen, Kiesala follows in Finland’s phenomenal lineage.
Raised in Lohja, located approximately 60 km west of Helsinki, Keisala first appeared with the Senior team at the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship. Debuting on March 31, 2016, just a few days shy of her 19th birthday, making a relief appearance for Meeri Raisanen versus Canada.
A member of Finland’s roster that captured the bronze medal at the 2017 IIHF Women’s Worlds, it was not until the 2021 edition that Keisala took on a starting role.
Compiling a won-loss mark of 3-2-0, Keisala enjoyed a pair of shutouts. Starting with a 4-0 shutout versus Russia in preliminary round play, she opened the elimination round by blanking the Czech Republic 1-0.
Making her Olympic debut on February 3, 2022, as Finland faced off against the defending gold medalist United States, Keisala played valiantly. In spite of a difficult 5-2 loss, a 47-save performance ensured Finland that the goaltending situation in Beijing was solid.
Undoubtedly, Keisala’s efforts yielded positive results for a proud hockey program that endured an unexpected 0-3-0 start. Recording 15 saves in the bronze medal game, frustrating the Swiss offense in a 4-0 shutout triumph, Viivi Vainikka, Susanna Tapani, Nelli Laitinen and four-time Olympian Michelle Karvinen supplied the offense.
With the prestige of a bronze medal in her Olympic debut, the milestone enriched the dream of wearing Finland’s jersey on the world’s biggest stage. Finding a tremendous sense of fulfillment, the beauty of the bronze medal serves as an exciting validation.
“Of course. I have always dreamed of being able to play in the Olympics, so it was great to bring a medal home. Especially when the tournament started badly, the medal felt even better.”
Winning three games in Beijing, each win proved to be crucial in the quest for a podium finish. Two of those wins came via shutout, demonstrating Keisala’s strong skill set between the pipes.
In three wins, Keisala allowed only one goal. Said goal was scored by Japan’s Akane Shiga in their first ever quarterfinals match. With Finland prevailing by a 7-1 tally, it marked their biggest margin of victory in Beijing.
The final game of the preliminary round saw Keisala log a 5-0 win versus ROC. Needing only 19 saves, it not only marked Finland’s first victory in Beijing, the result allowed for a third place finish in Group A.
With Keisala’s other shutout taking place in the bronze medal game, the win versus Switzerland also avenged a preliminary round loss. Additionally, Keisala led all goaltenders in Beijing, marking a significant achievement. In reflecting on her success, the key element involves praising the efforts of her teammates, showing a tremendous maturity and appreciation.
“When your team plays well ahead (of you), it is easier for me to play well too. It is always great to earn shutouts, but the most important thing is that the team wins.”
In a tournament that saw Keisala deliver on all accounts, an essential contributor as Finland gained their fourth bronze medal in Olympic women’s ice hockey history, the experience helped to solidify her standing as Finland’s number one goaltender.
Reflecting on the most enjoyable facet of her inaugural Olympic experience, being in the presence of her fellow Finnish athletes encompassed a strong sense of national pride. Surrounded by the greatest athletes of her homeland, competing versus the finest athletes the world has to offer, Keisala rose to the occasion. Revelling in a highly exhilarating environment, the experience allowed her to take on the mantle of a national sporting hero.
“The atmosphere (around) the whole Finnish Olympic Team was the greatest. And, the best thing was to get to play against the best in the world.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”