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Finnish Goalie Meeri Raisanen Brings Finland Back to Bronze Medal

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With the unexpected departure of Noora Raty from women’s hockey after the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the future of Finland’s goaltending became a serious concern. After winning bronze at both the 2010 Winter Games and the 2011 IIHF Women’s Worlds, Finland struggled to maintain expectations, failing to medal in subsequent years.

Taking into account that Raty is an All-World goaltender that also enjoyed an undefeated season in NCAA play with the Minnesota Golden Gophers in 2012-13, she was considered a significant component of Finland’s roster. Suddenly, a successor was needed and it was certainly a tough act to follow.

Standing between the pipes in place of Raty was Meeri Raisanen, who served as Raty’s apprentice for the last three years. Hailing from Tampere, the 25 year old spent one season (2010-11) with the Robert Morris Colonials of the NCAA before suiting up with Finnish club JYP Jyvaskyla and Russian squad HC SKIF Nizhny Novgorod.

The litmus test for Raisanen would be at the 2015 edition of the IIHF Women’s Worlds. Taking place in the land of their eternal rivals, Sweden, it only added to the pressure of a podium finish. With Russia having earned the bronze medal at the 2013 Women’s Worlds, and Switzerland claiming bronze at Sochi 2014, Finland was not looked upon by some as a favorite to capture bronze this year.

Complemented by the superlative scoring line of Michelle Karvinen, Susanna Tapani and Riika Valila, Finland was ready to stake its claim as one of the top nations in women’s hockey. With Raisanen getting more comfortable in every game, her confidence between the pipes established her as one of the top goalies at the 2015 Women’s Worlds.

A shutout against Switzerland, the bronze medalists from Sochi resulted in Raisanen only needing to make 15 saves, helping Finland advance to the medal round. After holding Canada to just one goal after two periods of play in the semifinals, there was strong belief that Finland was able to beat Canada for the first time in the event. Raisanen made 34 saves in the first two periods, injecting Finland with a remarkable confidence.

Despite two third period goals by Canada, Finland played admirably. Raisanen would prove ready to fill in Raty’s shoes and give Finland an opportunity to redeem itself in the bronze medal game.

Opposing Russia in the bronze medal game, a very confident nation after upsetting Canada to claim the gold medal at the 2015 Winter Universiade, it was the team that Finland had to play. When Finland last appeared in the bronze medal game (Ottawa 2013), it endured a heartbreaking loss to a Russian squad that was looking to build momentum for Sochi 2014.

Led by Karvinen, who registered three points, Raisanen only needed to make 18 saves as the Finns earned redemtipon in a 4-1 triumph, never relinquishing their lead once. For a squad that was potentially in crisis after the disastrous events of Sochi, Raisanen is ready to erase such memories, while building on Raty’s proud legacy, ensuring more victorious days lay ahead for Finland. 

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