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Women’s World Championship Roundup: Controversy clouds USA’s gold medal victory

Finland appeared to have won the Women's World Championship on the strength of Petra Nieminen's overtime winner, but the goal was disallowed after a lengthy review. Team USA went on to win in a shootout thanks to goals from Amanda Kessel and Annie Pankowski.

History was made, until it wasn’t, and the gold medal game of the 2019 Women’s World Championship will forever be remembered for one of the most controversial moments in international hockey history.

One night after shocking the hockey world by earning a berth in the final by downing Canada, Finland had battled USA to a 1-1 tie through regulation of the gold medal game, and it was in the extra frame that Petra Nieminen appeared to score the golden goal that made the Finns the first non-North American nation to win a top-level senior competition.

With little less than nine minutes remaining in the four-on-four overtime, Finland captain Jenni Hiirikoski made a dazzling end-to-end rush, splitting the American defense and rifling a shot on goal. The initial shot was stopped by Team USA goaltender Alex Rigsby, but left a rebound which Hiirikoski lunged towards in an effort to keep the play alive. As Hiirikoski made a move towards the puck, so too did Rigsby, and the resulting collision afforded Nieminen, who jumped on the loose puck, enough room to pot what was seemingly the game-winning goal.

Immediately after the apparent goal – and while the Finns flooded the ice, ditching their equipment and dog-piling Nieminen in celebration – Rigsby motioned to the official that she had been interfered with in her attempt to make the save. What followed was a painstakingly long review of Nieminen’s tally. After several minutes, during which time the Finns huddled arm in arm awaiting the call, officials disallowed Nieminen’s marker, instead giving Finland a power play for what was ruled to be a trip by Rigsby on Hiirikoski during the collision.

And Finland would come no closer to gold than that moment. Through the remainder of overtime, the Finns would test Rigsby while Team USA continued to pelt Noora Raty with pucks. Neither goaltender would budge throughout the remainder of overtime, and with a shootout needed to decide the proceedings, the Americans got goals from Amanda Kessel and Annie Pankowski – who scored USA’s lone regulation goal – while Minnamari Tuominen scored Finland's only goal in the shootout. Susanna Tapani, who scored the tying goal for Finland late in the second period, had a chance to keep the shootout alive, but her attempted move was denied by Rigsby, who clinched a fifth consecutive World Championship gold for Team USA.

Despite the heartbreaking result, Raty was beyond brilliant once again, stopping 50 shots to keep Finland deadlocked with USA throughout the affair. Rigsby was also fantastic, allowing one goal on 27 shots through regulation and overtime.

For Finland, who had won World Championship bronze a dozen times, the silver marks the first second-place finish in tournament history. Meanwhile, USA celebrates five-straight gold medals at the event and have stood atop the podium at nine of the past 11 World Championships.

In the aftermath of Saturday’s stunning defeat at the hands of Finland, Canada entered the bronze medal game against Russia looking to ensure a spot on the podium and refused to suffer another upset in a once-close game that became a rout late.

In a contest that wasn't even as close as the lopsided 7-0 scoreline suggests, the Canadians found the board for the first time six minutes into the opening frame when Natalie Spooner pulled a puck loose from a scrum along the boards, swooped behind the Russian goal and stuffed home a wraparound attempt. The one-goal lead was doubled before the first period was through, too, with Jamie Bourbonnais firing home a blast from the top of the circles with less than five minutes left.

Russia, thanks in large part to keeper Nadezhda Morozova, managed to keep the score tight through the second frame, however. Despite being wildly outplayed by Canada – out-shot to the tune of 19-3 after 40 minutes – Russia only entered the final period down 3-0, the Canadians getting their third tally of the night from Rebecca Johnston.

Unfortunately, the wheels came off for Russia in the third and the powerhouse Canadians iced the contest with a four-spot in the final 20 minutes. The scoring in the third was bookended by World Championship rookie Loren Gabel, whose goals three minutes into the frame and with five minutes remaining were separated by Jamie Rattray and Erin Ambrose tallies. Meanwhile. Canadian goaltender Genevieve Lacasse was perfect on the night, stopping all six shots Russia mustered in the third-place game.

With the win, Canada took home bronze and medalled for the 19th consecutive World Championship. This marks the first time since the introduction of the World Championship in 1990 that Canada’s senior team has failed to finish with at least a silver medal at a major international competition.

1. Noora Raty, 50 saves (FIN) – Outstanding performance gave f
2. Annie Pankowski, 1G (USA) – USA’s lone goal scorer in regulation fired home shootout winner
3. Loren Gabel, 2G (CAN) – Closed first World Championship with two-goal performance to help Canada to bronze

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