HERNING, Denmark — Ann-Renée Desbiens became the first Canadian goaltender to face and save a penalty shot at the World Women’s Hockey Championship in a 4-1 win over Finland to open the tournament on Thursday.
The 28-year-old from Clermont, Que., preserved Canada’s 2-1 lead when she stopped Kira Yrjanen on a penalty shot in the final second of the first period.
“It was huge,” defender Meagan Mikkelson said. “I said, just as they called the penalty shot, I turned to Jocelyne Larocque on the bench and said ‘she’s got that’. She lives for those moments.”
Marie-Philip Poulin and Sarah Nurse each had a goal and an assist for Canada, who are the defending champions having won the title a year ago in Calgary.
Mikkelson also scored and Blayre Turnbull added an empty net at Kvik Hockey Arena. Desbiens stopped 16 shots, including the penalty shot at a pivotal moment in the game.
With his right pad, Desbiens pushed back Yrjanen who skated, backed into the Canadian keeper and then turned for a forehand try.
“Definitely a move you don’t see too often in a game. Probably something more you see in training,” Desbiens said. “You just have to stay patient, see which way she’s going to go. Is she just going to backhand and pull it on her forehand?”
Desbiens was unaware that she had achieved a first in hockey in the history of her country during the tournament
“I think it was more important for me to get to that peak and have that lead after the first period,” Desbiens said. “I love penalty shootouts. I love practice shootouts. I think the girls know I love those moments, so I was ready for that.”
Canada will face Switzerland on Saturday and Japan on Sunday in back-to-back Group A matches. The Japanese opened with a 10-0 loss to the United States on Thursday.
Hungary doubled Germany 4-2 and Sweden beat Denmark 5-2 in Pool B matches
Julia Likala scored Thursday for the Finns, who won bronze last year in Calgary. Finnish keeper Anni Keisala, who was named the 2021 league best goalkeeper, made 39 saves in the loss.
“We are not at all happy with the way we played,” said Canadian head coach Troy Ryan. “Our first (period) wasn’t great, we were happy with our second and the third was probably somewhere in between, but it’s the first game.”
Finland traveled fewer time zones to get to Herning, Denmark, than Canada, but were hampered by both a 1-for-5 power play and the ejection of top forward Petra Nieminen early in the game. the first period for checking from behind.
“Of course she’s a great player for us, but that’s hockey,” said Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski, who is competing in a record 14th world championship.
“We started very well and we had a very good fighting spirit today, but we have to adjust small things and do better. Also score better.”
Finland’s power play couldn’t convert nearly four consecutive minutes with an extra player — including a dozen seconds in a five-on-three — into a goal late in the second period and early in the third.
Mikkelson rebounded a shot from Ella Shelton to give Canada a 3-1 lead at 13:01 of the second period.
The 37-year-old defender returned to the national team after surgery and rehabilitation from a knee injury kept her out of the Winter Olympics in February. Mikkelson scored his first goal since the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“It was all the more incredible as it allowed us to lead 3-1,” she said. “It was good to play in the back of the net, especially my first game in quite a while.”
Poulin scored the eventual winner at 14:51 of the first period. The captain skated the puck across the blue line and beat Keisala on the opposite side with a quick clearance for a 2-1 lead.
Likala leveled the Finns in the dying seconds of a Canadian penalty at 12:07 when she forced a rebound on a rush.
Five minutes into the first face-off, Nieminen was given a major misconduct and a five-minute game for checking Canadian Kristin O’Neill from behind.
Nurse scored a power-play goal 7:38 from the slot where she redirected a Poulin pass over Keisala’s glove.
The host Finns stunned Canada 4-2 in the 2019 World Championship semi-final in Espoo and then lost the final to the United States in a shootout. Canada have gone 5-0 against them since then.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 25, 2022.
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