Swedes upset Finland in women’s hockey playoff

SOCHI, Russia — Sweden defenseman Emma Eliasson is an iron ore miner who lives about a two-hour drive from Finland above the Arctic Circle, and she is a three-time Olympian who played in the bronze medal loss to the Finns four years ago.

So she speaks with authority when she says, "We are like the worst enemies ever."

Eliasson’s slapshot eluded two-time NCAA champion goalie Noora Raty and helped Sweden beat Finland 4-2 on Saturday in the Olympic women’s hockey quarterfinals. The victory over their Scandinavian archrivals put the Swedes in the semifinals against the United States.

"I’m so happy, I’m just shaking," said Sweden forward Erika Grahm, who assisted on the go-ahead goal with 4:15 left in the game.

Anna Borgqvist, Lina Wester and Emma Nordin also scored for Sweden, and Valentina Wallner made 29 saves. Raty, who went 41-0-0 to lead the University of Minnesota to its second straight national championship last year, made 28 saves for Finland but she could not see Eliasson’s slapshot from the blue line that held up as the game-winner.

Finland, the favorites to repeat as bronze medalists, can finish no higher than fifth.

"This is definitely one of the worst (losses)," Finland forward Minttu Tuominen said, pausing to hold back tears. "Not being able to play for an Olympic medal, it’s heartbreaking."

Finland’s overtime victory in the women’s hockey medal round in Vancouver came after a season in which the Swedes dominated their Scandinavian neighbors. But the Finns had since established themselves as the definitive No. 3 team in the world, with Raty giving them a chance to upset even Canada or the United States.

"We have played many games against them this year. They have been the better team throughout the whole year," Sweden assistant coach Leif Boork said. "We could play a little bit coming from behind, and that was a favor for us mentally. They had more pressure on them, and we could play a little bit relaxed."

The game was a rough one for women’s hockey, which does not allow the body-checking that would be familiar to fans of the NHL or the men’s international game. Finland’s Nina Tikkinen was cross-checked to the ice in front of the Sweden net, banging her head on the ice as she landed, and a skirmish at the other end led to four-minute roughing penalties for Grahm and Tuominen.

Finland took the lead 13 minutes into the second when Wallner stopped Linda Valimaki’s shot with her blocker but left it in front for Venla Hovi. Sweden tied it on a power-play goal early in the second period when Borgqvist’s shot deflected off a defenseman’s stick and the tip of Raty’s skate into the net.

Wester gave Sweden the lead with 14:51 left in the third, but Finland tied it just 12 seconds later when Karoliina Rantamaki dug the puck out from behind the net and passed it in front to Emma Nuutinen. Sweden took a 3-2 lead on Eliasson’s power-play goal.

Nordin added an empty-netter.

"We are not a fancy team; Finland is much more skilled than us," Boork said. "But as you all know you can win games in different ways. Good character and hard work can do that, and today it was our time to do that."