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April 14, 2019 — A miracle; or not

For the first time since the International Ice Hockey Federation first started holding a world championship tournament in 1990, someone other than the United States or Canada is the finest women’s hockey team in the world.

Finland’s Petra Niemenen broke a 1-1 tie in the 12th minute of overtime on a snappy putback of a rebound, sending the crowd in Espoo, Finland into hysterics ….

At least, this should have been the lead paragraph of today’s story about the 2019 championship final. Instead, the replay official took 12 minutes to make a goalie-interference call, continuing the game until the end of overtime, whereupon the U.S. won the post-overtime shootout 2-1.

It was a highly unsatisfying result, to be sure. The U.S. team, featuring a number of players who won the PyeongChang gold medal just a year ago, may have had the edge in speed and in work along the boards, but appeared to run out of ideas in trying to beat Finland goalie Noora Raty, taking the first available shot rather than setting up screens or deflections in front.

And you would also have not blamed Finland’s players for thinking they had been robbed of the win because of the decision that came out of the replay booth. The American goalie, Alex Rigsby, was at the edge of the blue paint on the play and remained in the crease as Finland’s Jenni Hiirikoski swept in and knocked her out of the way, allowing Niemenen an open goal.

Oddly enough, the on-ice officials had called a trip on Rigsby, a penalty which would have been wiped out by the goal. But the video official, in calling back the goal, did not call a penalty on Finland for goalie interference.

After the protracted review, the teams had to return to the ice, and, as it turned out, Finland sent half of the rest of overtime on the power play.

It was truly a bizarre contest, but one which certainly should signal a change in the balance of power in women’s ice hockey — even if the final result doesn’t show it.

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