Jenelle Kohanchuk saw an opportunity, so she made the best of it at just the right time.
Kohanchuk scored twice as Canada’s women’s hockey team defeated Finland 6-3 on Saturday for the gold medal at Four Nations Cup.
The 23-year-old, who was participating in her first Four Nations Cup while Canada chose to leave behind six veterans, including Hayley Wickenheiser, was humbled to have such a huge part in Canada claiming gold.
“It’s such an honour for me to be a part of this,” said Kohanchuk. “This is the first time I’ve been part of any cup. It’s true motivation with the Olympics coming up to know we are a gold-medal team.”
Canada’s head coach Dan Church was more than pleased with Kohanchuk and her linemates Vicki Bendus and Gillian Apps, who stepped up their games despite playing on the fourth line. Bendus also scored for Canada and earned an assist on each of Kohanchuk’s goals.
“Jenelle and her line were really good, maybe the best tonight,” said Church. “They outworked whoever they were up against.”
Brianne Jenner, Jennifer Wakefield and Haley Irwin also scored for Canada while goaltender Charline Labonte stopped 19-of-22 shots for the victory.
Riikka Valila, Susanna Tapani and Anna Kilponen scored for Finland.
Goaltender Noora Raty gave Finland ample opportunity to compete with Canada as she turned away 39 shots.
“She’s a game changer for them,” said Church. “She can steal games. Maybe the best goaltender in the world, you can’t take her lightly.”
“She is competing to be the top goalie in the world, she knows her angles very well,” added Kohanchuk. “We were told to come in crash the net and get in front of her.”
Kohanchuk opened the scoring for Canada 2:25 into the opening period, however Valila responded for Finland less than four minutes later.
The Canadians kept the pressure on and Bendus regained the lead at 7:37. Wakefield and Jenner added a goal apiece before the period was finished to make it 4-1.
The three-goal lead was exactly what Church wanted from his team.
“(That) was really important for us,” said Church about the early lead. “That cushion allowed us to weather the storm when we weren’t playing well a little bit in the second and third.”
Kilponen scored early in the second period for Finland and the game remained 4-2 until the third period as Raty turned back all 17 shots her way in the middle period.
Kohanchuk’s second goal of the game came 46 seconds into the third period and gave Canada extra breathing room as Finland changed its game plan for the final 20 minutes.
Tapani scored for Finland at 6:49 to make it 5-3 and Finland continued to play desperate, outshooting Canada 10-9 in the final period.
“They changed tactics and brought more pressure,” said Church. “They (even) pulled their goalie with four minutes left.”
Irwin added Canada’s final goal with just six seconds left on the clock.
Canada went 1 for 7 on the power play while Finland scored twice on two chances with the man advantage.
“I would have liked to have done better on the penalty kill and we’ll work on that moving forward,” said Church.
This was the 13th gold medal Canada has earned at the Four Nations Cup while Finland captured silver for the second time in tournament history.