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From Ohio State to Espoo Blues

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After finishing my collegiate career at Ohio State University in 2013, it was time to move back to my hometown of Helsinki, Finland and go back to playing for Espoo Blues. I played for the team for three seasons prior to making the big move to college. Espoo Blues is one of the most successful teams in the history of women’s hockey in Finland, having won 12 National Championship titles in the past 16 seasons – including in 2013-2014.

The year was rough, both physically and mentally. I missed studying (yep, that’s me in the front row!), being close to everything on campus, having to speak English every day, my friends and teammates, you name it. Don’t get me wrong, I did love being back home, close to my family and closest friends, but the gap between Division 1 hockey and the Finnish Championship League is big. The resources in women’s sports in Finland are very small. For example, we don’t have a single full-time coach, access to video, a proper gym at the rink or even skating every day as a team – all of which I had been used to for the four years I spent at OSU. In addition, the Sochi Olympics were right around the corner. Thanks to the people around me, everything worked out well in the end. Except that we didn’t get what we wanted in the Olympics. It was still an amazing experience and I was extremely proud to wear the lion jersey and to represent my country for the second time in the Olympics. I was also happy to see a fellow Buckeye alum Natalie Spooner do as well as she did in her first Games and go home with the gold! Not to forget meeting up with one of the athletic trainers I had at OSU as he is working with the U.S. Ski Team these days.

As of now, I am in my second season back with Espoo Blues, but my first as a defenseman. I switched from playing forward to D during the Finnish championship series after the Olympics because the team needed an extra defenseman. I feel like I am more in control of the game, I see everything better, and it just feels right, so I decided to stay – and I love it. As a team we are second in league ranking, 8 points (and one game less played) behind JYP from Jyväskylä and 10 points ahead of HPK Hämeenlinna. So far we have played 21 games with a record of 15 wins, 3 losses, 2 overtime wins, and one overtime loss. There are 7 games left to play in regular season. In addition to Finnish league, we continue to play for the European Women’s Club Championship after placing second in our second round tournament in Linköping, Sweden early December. We beat Aisulu Almaty (KAZ) and Bolzano Eagles (ITA), but lost 1-0 to the host Linköping HC. Fortunately, we advanced to the final tournament as the best second ranked team. The final tournament will take place in Espoo on February 20th to 22nd. This is the last year of EWCC being held and thus the last chance for my team to claim the championship.

Hands down my favorite holiday is Christmas. Like every year so far, I spent the Christmas at home. My brother and I played pick-up hockey, and went bouldering and running, not to forget going in the sauna every day. On the 24th we had extended family over for the traditional Christmas Eve’s breakfast: rice pudding and glögi (or mulled wine). Different to the American tradition, most Finns open the Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve. I always struggle making the list what I want/need so this year some new workout clothes was my go-to. On Boxing Day we drove 2 hours to Tampere where I met up with 6 other girls from the Finnish National team for some drinks and the World Junior Championship game Finland vs USA. What a fight from our guys! The week got the ending it deserved as I met up with a former Buckeye volleyball player on Saturday night. He plays pro here in Finland. Always a good time catching up with fellow Buckeyes!

Up next: Meco Cup in Füssen, Germany with the national team. We will leave for Germany on New Year’s Day and will face team Austria on the 2nd, team Canada U22 on the 3rd, team Russia on the 5th, and the medal or placement games will take place on the 6th. I’m looking forward to seeing one of the assistant coaches from my last two years at OSU, as she does video coaching for team Canada in Germany! Also, this is one of my favorite tournaments of the year because Füssen is such a cute little town to visit!

Finnish phrase of the month: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta!

In English: Happy New Year!

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