Having played in multiple countries and continents, goaltender Eri Kiribuchi is a distinguished and well-traveled citizen of the hockey world. Fluent in four languages, Kiribuchi graduated from the Carleton University Ravens program in 2014, located in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa.
Currently, the newest chapter in her playing career brings her to one of Europe’s most prominent women’s hockey regions. With early European hockey roots in the Czech Republic, Kiribuchi brings her strong goaltending skills to KJT Naiset in the Finnish elite league known as SM-Sarja.
Standing between the pipes for the majority of the squad’s games in the 2015-16 season, Kiribuchi has also shared goaltending duties this season with the likes of Rade Hagelin, Katja Jappinen and Elisa Vaittinen. As a side note, there is some other proud Canadian content on the roster, as Sudbury, Ontario’s Danielle Rozon is also the team captain.
With a significant hockey background in Canada, where Kiribuchi also played with the Toronto Rattlers, and the United States, spending one season as the backup to Zuzana Tomcikova at Minnesota’s Bemidji State, competing in Europe is exemplified by much more than personal growth. There is also an opportunity to experience another culture and soak in the customs with a sincere curiosity.
Despite the obligatory adjustment that comes with playing in another part of the world, Kiribuchi has relished the chance to be part of elite women’s ice hockey in Finland, reflecting a mood of friendship and belonging that makes the professional game one of pure enjoyment.
“Many differences are in culture, because of people’s characteristics. People here in Finland are very, very kind but it takes time to get closer with them. Team culture is very different because of those characteristics as well. Game wise, obviously the play-style is much different but game speed is very high and every game is intense and maybe they play bit more aggressive into the body.”
In her second season with the club, the opportunity to continue her playing career past university is part of a pivotal movement in the evolution of women’s hockey. Having always provided a valiant effort when she competed with the Ravens, such assiduousness remains prominent in her professional career. In reflecting on how the opportunity presented itself to play professionally in Finland, her love of the game shimmers,
“I was actually thinking of moving forward with the life with no hockey but somehow my goalie coach found this opportunity. I did not even think a minute and said that I wanted to take that opportunity!
Is it fun to play in the top league? Yes, I face lots of shots every game and these shots are quality good shots so getting so much more experience! Finnish goalies are all very high level so becoming the top goalie here is a super tough battle but it is a great challenge for me!
My team is not the strongest in this league so sometimes it is tough to lose, but when you are playing so well and the whole team in front of you is playing well together, then nothing else matters and I just enjoy playing!”
An astute pupil of the game, with every effort rendering crucial to the team’s overall performance and motivation, Finland represents an unfolding narrative, as a new region of fans and teammates alike get to appreciate Kiribuchi’s exceptional skill. The rink is an almost meditative environment, where empowerment and fair play interweave, bringing a powerful glow to the ice.
With two seasons of experience in Finland, Kiribuchi has blossomed into an integral component of KJT Naiset’s roster. Although the squad has endured its share of losing, a spirit of determination ensures that there will always be an effort to bring about a winning era in the near-future. Part of the growing confidence within the club took place on December 13, 2015, as Kiribuchi provided one of the finest performances in her Finnish career. Posting a 1-0 shutout against Kuortane, it represented a favorite moment for Kiribuchi. Not only was said shutout her first of the season, but it provided the club with its fifth win, snapping a winless streak.
“Most likely when I had my first shutout in this season against Kuortane. I struggled little bit personally not helping enough the team to win this season more then last season I think…so that shut out and win over Kuortane was a huge win for our team.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from Facebook