By Jason La Rose
Natalie Spooner (Scarborough, Ont./Toronto, CWHL) had a hat trick and finished with four points, leading Canada’s National Women’s Team into the gold medal game at the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship with a 5-3 semifinal win over Finland on Sunday night.
The Canadians will face the United States in the final for the 17th time in as many women’s worlds; the puck drops Monday at 7:30 p.m. PT, live on TSN.
Meghan Agosta (Ruthven, Ont.) and Blayre Turnbull (Stellarton, N.S./Calgary, CWHL) had the other goals for Canada, while captain Marie-Philip Poulin (Beauceville, Que./Montreal, CWHL) added three assists.
Despite being outshot 13-5 in the first period, it was the Finns who struck first; Saana Valkama kept on a two-on-one and snapped a shot past Canadian goaltender Charline Labonté (Boisbriand, Que./Montreal, CWHL) at the seven-minute mark.
But Spooner answered on the power play six minutes later and got the 4,007 at the Sandman Centre back into the game, redirecting a Brigette Lacquette (Mallard, Man./Calgary, CWHL) point shot up and over Finnish netminder Meeri Raisanen to send the game to the first intermission tied 1-1.
The Canadians turned up the offence in the second period, outshooting Finland 17-4, but it took until the final three minutes of the middle frame for Agosta to bang in a loose puck at the side of the net for a 2-1 lead.
Spooner doubled the advantage 5:38 into the third period, racing away from a Finnish defenceman and going to the backhand to beat Raisanen on a shorthanded breakaway to make it 3-1.
Finland tried an unconventional strategy in the final 10 minutes, pulling Raisanen on every power play for a six-on-four advantage. It worked when Karvinen tapped the 3-2 goal past Labonté with 4:18 left, but Turnbull scored the game-winner, and Spooner finished her hat trick, both into an empty net on the same penalty kill.
Saila Saari got a consolation goal for the Finns with 33 seconds left to finish the scoring.
Finland outshot Canada 10-9 in the third period, helped by four power plays, but the Canadians held a lopsided 39-19 advantage overall.