SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Sweden has long thought of Finland as the little brother, a realm that answered to the Swedish king for 600 years. The dynamic also extended to sports, where Sweden’s teams have traditionally dominated.
The Finns are the defending Olympic bronze medalists, and they are the favorites to repeat their third-place finish at the Sochi Games. First they’ll have to get past the Swedes in a quarterfinal match on Saturday at the Shayba Arena, and goaltender Noora Raty gives them a good chance to do that.
Raty is a two-time NCAA champion from the University of Minnesota who went 41-0-0 last year in college.
“We have all the confidence in the world in her and we know she’s going to be there,” defenseman Emma Terho said. “But we just have to do our own jobs and cut out any passes or rebounds.”
In the other quarterfinal, Russia will play Switzerland. The hosts are the defending world championship bronze medalists, but they were seeded fifth in the Olympics, which are based on previous rankings.
That left the Russians in the second-tier Group B, where they went 3-0 in the round-robin. Although their opponents were technically weaker, Russia beat last-place Japan by one goal and played a close game against Sweden until a late goal made it 3-1.
“In our group we were favorites in most of the games, but look at the scores,” forward Yekaterina Pashkevich said. “We gave a heart attack to everybody who watched those games.”
Switzerland was winless in Group A, which included the top teams in the world: the United States, Canada and Finland.
The North Americans received byes into the semifinals, where they will play the winners of Saturday’s games. Canada took the top seed in the preliminary round by beating the U.S. 3-2.