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January Spent on the Road for the Espoo Blues

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Meco Cup in Fussen, Germany with Finnish National team, January 2-6

Like many years before, we started the New Year with an afternoon flight to Germany to play in the 6 Nations Meco Cup. On the 2nd we played an exhibition game against team Austria in Innsbruck, Austria. Three Finnish coaches coach the team and two of them have coached me during my career, so it was nice to get to see and to talk to them. The Austrian team played with a lot of passion and I paid attention to two forwards who were both skilled and determined scorers. After a 3-3 first period we went on to win the game 4-8. I have to give them credit for using their scoring chances well, and not giving up! When it comes to my team, it was nice to get a game under the belt before the tournament began but we did not do our best at all.

Following day we faced the eventual winner of the tournament, the Canadian Development team. I was excited for this game because there were some familiar faces from my college years and I knew the game would be fast-paced and physical. We did not start well and didn’t execute the game plan, but were able to improve throughout the game. Score: 3-0 to Canada.

Next we faced Russia. It was time for revenge since the Russian team beat us in the overtime at the Euro Hockey Tour in Sweden in December. Over the past couple of years we have grown very familiar with the Russian team and their style of play: backdoor passes, penalties, couple of very skilled forwards, etc. We knew we had to play well as a team and execute our systems in order to win the game. Score: 2-1 to us.

Last game of the tournament was bronze medal game against Germany. They had just beat the Olympic bronze medal winning Switzerland the night before, so we made sure not to underestimate them. Score: 6-0 to us.

Finnish League with Espoo Blues

After the tournament we had a couple days to recover before getting to start the new year in the Finnish league.  January was a month of long road trips for us as we played 4 of our 7 games at least a 4-hour bus ride away. First roadie was a game in Jyvaskyla on Saturday followed by a game in Kuortane on Sunday. JYP from Jyvaskyla placed first in regular season this year and is our biggest rival. We lost the game 6-2 with a decent performance, while they had a very successful powerplay.

Not feeling too great about that loss we continued the trip to western Finland to visit the women’s U18-centralization team in Kuortane. We improved our game from the previous night and put up 5 goals to their 1 in a period and a half. The rest of the game remained scoreless.

Over the years we have gained a committed fan from outside of Finland. He made the trip to Finland that weekend and I got a chance to talk to him and hear what he had to say after both of these games. Of course, he was happy to see one of his favorite teams to play again, just wishing we could have beat JYP. Next time!

Following weekend was time for another road trip. We left on Saturday morning at 6am to Kuopio, a city about 5hours away with two stops. The game that afternoon was a high-scoring one: 4-9 to us. They got an early lead in the first shift of the game but we recovered fast and showed everyone which team is better.

In my opinion a good cool-down is important especially on the road. After a thorough jog combined with foam rolling followed by shower and food at a Neste Oil gas station, we were ready for another 4 hours on the bus. This time we headed to Oulu, to visit the northernmost team in the league.

In Oulu we faced an energetic and fearless team, while we were out of gas so to speak. They had to win the game in order to secure their spot in the playoffs so they had nothing to lose. Their drive combined with good goaltending against our poor performance = 5-2 to Oulu.

Our record in January was 3 wins and 4 losses (not something to celebrate over) and we finished second in regular season. There are eight teams in the Finnish league: the teams that placed 3rd -6th will play in the quarterfinals while the first two (us and JYP) go straight to the semifinals. The semifinals, best of 5, will begin on February 24.

Up next: Women’s European Hockey Tour in Finland. I’m excited to play for the national team in front of home crowd. Looking forward to seeing a lot of little girls (why not boys too) out there in the stands! We are not only going in the tournament to win it, but also to spread and promote women’s hockey in Finland. Team in EHT: Sweden, Russia and Germany.

Next game with Espoo Blues will be on February 20th against Nizhni Novgorod (RUS) in the European Women’s Club Championship final tournament that we will be hosting in Espoo. We will play three games that weekend, the other two teams are Linkopings HC (SWE) and HC Lugano (SUI). Last year we placed third in Europe so this year we are looking to do better!

Other than that, I am doing some job search as my last job ended. I worked for the Helsinki Metropolitan area Sports Academy who manages student-athletes in the area. In addition, the application period for Master’s studies has been open since December. I have already applied to exercise science and sports management programs in Jyvaskyla, but still working on my application for my first choice, a nutrition program in the University of Helsinki.

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