Hailing from Laitala, Finland, Susanna Tapani has proudly donned the Team Finland jersey for the last four years. Joining the renowned North Dakota Fighting Sioux program in the autumn of 2013, the 5’10” forward has scored one of the most important goals in the history of women’s hockey in the United States.
Through the first twelve games of the 2013-14 North Dakota season, she has logged four goals and nine points for an impressive 13 point performance. Of all the goals she would score so far this season, none was as monumental as her game-winning tally against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on November 17.
With North Dakota having built up a 3-0 lead after the first period, Tapani contributed with two points. She would assist on Gracen Hirschy’s goal at the 10:34 mark for the 2-0 lead. Two minutes and five seconds afterwards, Tapani would bury the puck past Amanda Leveille for the three goal lead. While Minnesota would score twice in the second, it was not enough.
Tapani’s goal would snap Minnesota’s record-setting 62 game winning streak. Assisting on her historic marker were Meghan Dufault and Halli Krzyzaniak. One of the most unique records in all of hockey, Tapani’s goal brought an end to a glorious chapter in WCHA women’s hockey. Similar to Cleveland Indians third baseman Ken Keltner, who snapped Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in baseball, Tapani’s name will forever be associated with breaking the Gophers win streak.
During a stellar rookie campaign, that goal was part of an even bigger and more impressive story. With the Fighting Sioux having recruited some of the finest players from Europe over the years, Tapani is paying impressive dividends for the program.
One of her great hockey legacies in Finland occurred in 2011. During the same year, she would win the bronze medal twice with Team Finland. First, she would help the Finns capture bronze at the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championships. A few months later, she would play with the senior team in Switzerland as the squad captured bronze. The love of the game is definitely in her blood as her mother, Nina Sajo, was a member of the Finnish national ringette team.
An October 4 contest versus the Lindenwood Lady Lions marked her NCAA debut. She would contribute with three assists in a convincing 6-1 victory. The first NCAA goal scored by Gracen Hirschy would be one of the goals that Tapani assisted on.
The following day, she would follow it up with another three-point performance at the expense of the Lady Lions, which also included the first goal of her NCAA career during the second period. Nicole Hensley was the goaltender who allowed the milestone goal. Assisting on Tapani’s goal were Johanna Fallman and Josefine Jakobsen, both of whom also have international experience.
For her efforts, she was recognized as the WCHA’s Rookie of the Week. In addition, she would launch her NCAA career with a four-game scoring streak.
Another notable effort was a two-point performance against the Russian national women’s team on November 29. With the exhibition serving as the Fighting Sioux’s first action after the Thanksgiving holiday, the squad faced a 3-1 deficit in the third period. Tapani would contribute with two assists to tie the game and force overtime.
While Tapani also has visions of winning the gold medal with the Finnish team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games; she has made a remarkable impression on fans in Grand Forks, North Dakota. With the graduation of the Lamoureux sisters, Tapani is among a new group of Fighting Sioux players proudly carrying on their proud legacy.
Photo credit: North Dakota Fighting Sioux athletics