So, we did separate overviews of the US roster here, and the Canadian roster here, but we thought you might like some info on the other national rosters. They’ve all been announced (FINALLY) so here we go!
This post is the rest of Group A, which consists of the US, Canada, Finland, and Switzerland.
Finland qualified directly for the Olympics, being ranked 3rd overall after the 2012 Women’s Worlds. They’ve won Bronze at the Olympics twice, in 1998 and 2010. They’ve won bronze at the Women’s Worlds A LOT, and finished in fourth the other times. They lost the bronze medal at Worlds in 2013 to Russia. Finland has consistently been the top European women’s team, and they’re very determined this year that they’re going to oust one of the US or Canada from the top two spots. You can see their Olympic roster for Sochi HERE.
A large part of their success has been their goal tending. Noora Raty, their projected starter, has been to two Olympics with Finland, including the Torinio 2006 Olympics at age 16. She won bronze with the 2010 team, playing five of the games and ending the tournament with a SVS% of 88.37. At the 2013 Worlds, she had a SVS% of 90.91. Prior to this year, she played for the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the NCAA system. Her senior year, she posted a record of 38-0-0, which is the most wins in a single season for a goalie in NCAA history and set an NCAA winning percentage record. Her career save percentage with the Gophers was .946, and her time there included two back to back NCAA championships.
Another notable player for Finland is Riikka Välilä (née Nieminen), who also won bronze with Finland at the Olympics– but in 1998. Välilä was born in 1973, and played for Finland at both the 1998 and 2002 Olympics. At the 1998 Olympics, she lead the tournament in scoring, with 12 points (7 goals & 5 assists) in six games. She retired from hockey after the 2002 Olympics, and in 2009 was the fourth woman to be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame. Over her international career, she scored 109 goals and 95 assists for a total of 204 points while accumulating only 24 penalty minutes. However, Välilä decided she wanted to try to make a comeback early in 2013, and ended up making the final Olympic roster. It’s going to be really interesting to see how well that’s going to work out for them.
The Finnish defensive corps is a solid one, too. Jenni Hiirikoski, in particular, I’m looking forward to seeing in action again. She was selected by the directorate as the best defenseman of the 2013 Women’s World.
The Swiss women’s team also qualified directly to the Olympics, being ranked fourth. 2006 was the first year the Swiss team qualified for the Olympics, and finished 7th. In 2010, they finished 5th. They were an unexpected upset at the 2012 Women’s Worlds, when they ended up in the semi-finals for the first time, and won over Finland to gain the bronze medal. However, despite being so highly ranked and clearly improving, the team bombed out at the 2013 Women’s Worlds, losing all of their games. They’re very motivated to come back from this loss at the Olympics. You can see their full Olympic roster HERE.
The growing success of the Swiss team is especially surprising in light of how little support the women’s sport has, compared to the other Olympic qualifying teams. After comments by the IOC president Jacques Rogge about how the extreme disparity between the US and Canadian teams and the rest of the women’s teams could not continue, and with the Olympics in Sochi, the Russian Hockey Federation has worked to improve the resources and infrastructure available to their women’s team, while the German Ministry of Defense has partnered with the German Ice Hockey Association to support top German athletes, including the women’s ice hockey program. However, the Swiss programme is largely without these kinds of support.
Switzerland, like Finland, are well-known in men’s hockey for their goaltender development systems, and that proves true in the women as well. Florence Schelling is very definitely a product of this system. She went to the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, and was the starting goaltender for Switzerland at the 2012 Women’s Worlds that won bronze. She played NCAA hockey at Northeastern, where her career save percentage was .940. In the 2012 CWHL draft, she was taken 20th overall by Montreal, but plays for Brampton.