23/04/2024

Canada comes together as a team for a celebratory photo with its well earned Gold medals. Photo Credit: IIHF/Twitter

After a hard and grinding two weeks of women’s ice hockey action at the Olympics, The Inner Sanctum is here to wrap up all the exciting action from the bronze medal game between Finland and Switzerland, and the gold medal game between Canada and the USA.

After a hard and grinding two weeks of women’s ice hockey action at the Olympics, the only order of business to finish off the tournament was to work out which three teams would go home with a medal and which team would leave empty handed.

The Inner Sanctum is here to wrap up all the exciting action from the bronze medal game between Finland and Switzerland, and the gold medal game between Canada and the USA.

Bronze Medal Game: Finland v Switzerland

After getting blown out 10-3 by Canada in its semi-final, Switzerland was looking to bounce back against a tough Finland side who lost its semi-final 4-1 to the USA.

Switzerland was also chasing revenge from the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship where it also finished in fourth place after losing the third-place game to Finland.

The game itself would prove to be decided by special teams, with Finland executing its game plan to near perfection from start to finish and absolutely outworking Switzerland.

Viivi Vainikka would open the scoring for Finland at the 11:38 mark of the first period at even strength, with the second goal not coming until the third period.

This was not from a lack of trying from Finland as it racked up 21 shots on goal in the second period as it attempted to extend the lead.

Finland would take a penalty for too many players at the 2:52 mark of the third period, sending it on to the penalty kill.

Just 32 seconds into the penalty kill, Finland would double the lead through Susanna Tapani with a short-handed goal to put the team well into the driver’s seat and on its way to a bronze medal.

Nelli Laitinen would convert on the power play with 5:36 to go in the game to make it 3-0, and Michele Karvinen would do the same with 57 seconds to go, also converting on the power play to put the icing on the cake, as Finland would run out 4-0 winners and secure the bronze medal.

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With Finland putting up 47 shots, the Swiss goalie Andrea Bräendli did everything she absolutely could to keep Switzerland in the game as she saved 43 of 47 (91.49 save percentage), and only letting the one goal in before the third period.

Finland’s goalie Anni Keisala was perfect as she put up a 15-save shutout.

For Switzerland, its two biggest inabilities which hurt its chances of success was a tough schedule and being unable to score when it absolutely needed to.

Switzerland exits the tournament with just 13 goals from 145 shots (8.97 per cent) across its seven games, with six of those coming from 31 power play opportunities (19.35 per cent).

The penalty kill was also poor for Switzerland, conceding six goals from 22 times being short-handed (72.73 per cent success rate).

The goaltending was also poor, conceding 43 goals from 339 shots on goal (87.32 save percentage), although 22 of these goals came against Canada, and eight of them against the USA.

For Finland, it took a while to work its way into the tournament, which was not helped by a schedule that saw its opening two games be against the USA and Canada.

Finland comes together to celebrate its bronze medal victory. Photo Credit: IIHF/Twitter

Once those two games were out of the way, Finland was able to find its rhythm and put out some dominant performances and was rewarded with the bronze medal as a result.

Finland finishes the tournament with 22 goals from 233 shots (9.44 per cent), nine of those coming from 25 power play opportunities (36 per cent), while the penalty kill only conceded four goals from 26 times (84.62 per cent success rate).

The goaltending left a little to be desired, conceding 24 goals from 225 shots on goal (89.33 save percentage), although 11 of those came against Canada in the group stage game, and nine against the USA between the group stage game (five) and the semi-final (four).

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Gold Medal Game: Canada v USA

The latest chapter in one of sports greatest rivalries certainly lived up to the hype and was a game worthy of the gold medal as Canada looked to exact revenge on the USA after losing the gold medal game in 2018 to the USA.

Canada did everything right throughout the entire tournament in the lead up to the gold medal game.

Excellent goaltending, dominant scoring, a strong penalty kill, and a complete all-around performance in every game put Canada in the best position to walk away with gold.

After a little bit of a feeling out process, Sarah Nurse opened the scoring for Canada at the 7:50 mark of the first period.

The captain Marie-Philip Poulin would score Canada’s other two goals in this game. The first was at the 15:02 mark of the first period, while the second would come 9:08 into the second period. For Poulin, she became the first player – male or female – to score in four Olympic gold-medal games.

Sarah Nurse would assist on the second goal for Poulin, and in doing so broke two records. Nurse now holds the record for most points in a single women’s Olympic tournament at 18 (5G, 13A), and with her 13th assist, also broke the single-tournament record for most assists.

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Marie-Philip Poulin’s second goal which would give Sarah Nurse two Olympic records.

The penalty kill for USA would come up massive late in the second period, as Hilary Knight would score short-handed to get the USA back within 2 goals of the Canadians heading into the third period.

The USA would throw everything it had at Canada in the third period, racking up 16 shots to four in the third period (total shot count was 40-21 in favour of the USA), in an attempt to claw back the two goals it needed.

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With 3:09 to go, Alex Cavallini would head to the bench for the extra attacker.

Poulin would send Canada to the penalty kill with 1:25 to go after committing a tripping penalty, and with Cavallini still on the bench for the extra attacker, gave the USA a 6v4 opportunity which it would be successful on as Amanda Kessel would score with 13 seconds remaining.

The goal would prove too little too late for the Americans, as they were unable to score the third with the remaining time.

For the USA, it falls short in its quest for back-to-back gold medals, but it was always going to be tough for anyone to beat this high-flying Canadian team.

The area that you could look at in the immediate aftermath which cost the USA gold throughout the entire tournament was the inability to get off high-quality shots, which is seen in the high shot count, as it finishes having scored 30 goals from 374 shots (8.02 per cent), with seven of those coming from 29 power play opportunities (24.14 per cent).

Canada comes together moments after the final horn sealing its Gold medal. Photo Credit: Hockey Canada/Twitter

For Canada, it ends the tournament with 57 goals (breaking the previous record of 48) coming from 332 shots (17.17 per cent), with 10 of those coming from 24 power play opportunities (41.67 per cent).

The penalty kill was also massive throughout the entire tournament, as it was short-handed on 34 separate occasions, and only conceded five goals, for an 85.29 per cent success rate.

The goaltending would only give up 10 goals from 173 shots faced, for a 94.22 save percentage.

There was no one defining factor for Canada which won it gold. It took strong performances from almost every single player, and this was reflected in the named all-star team, where four of the six players named were Canadian.

Claire Thompson, who set a new record for most points by a defender (13), Sarah Nurse, Marie Philip-Poulin, and tournament MVP Brianne Jenner were joined by Finland’s Jenni Hiirikoski and the Czech Republic’s Klára Peslarová.

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