Loren Gabel gets Canada going in win over Finland in women’s world hockey

Canada 6 Finland 1

ESPOO, Finland — Loren Gabel’s summer shooting gallery is paying off at her first women’s world hockey championship.

The 21-year-old from Kitchener, Ont., scored a pair of goals and assisted on another in Canada’s 6-1 win over Finland on Tuesday.

Canada (3-1) finished second in Group A behind the unbeaten United States and will play Germany in a quarterfinal Thursday.

Gabel says she shoots 500 pucks a day in the off-season to hone and strengthen her shot.

Her second goal Tuesday and third of her first world championship? A quick-release wrister top shelf.

“Yes, it’s true. I do shoot 500 pucks a day,” Gabel said. “Been doing that since I was 10. Definitely helps.”

Gabel, Ann-Sophie Bettez and Brianne Jenner were a productive line as Bettez assisted on both Gabel goals.

Jenner scored a pretty backhand goal on a dish from Gabel, who got her stick on a Bettez shot and redirected it in for Canada’s first goal of the game.

“They’re playmakers, they can put the puck in the net and I think we’re starting to build that chemistry,” Bettez said.

“I think I use my speed pretty well, (winning) the battles and Loren is able to put the puck in the net and she showed that tonight.

“She’s able to finish the play. Jenner is complementing (with) faceoffs. The three of us each have a different strength that completes a line.”

Rebecca Johnston, Sarah Nurse and Erin Ambrose also scored for Canada, while Shannon Szabados made 22 saves for her second win of the tournament.

Ella Viitasuo countered for Finland early in the third after Canada scored four times.

Finland goalie Noora Raty allowed three goals on 29 shots before she was replaced late in the second period by Eveliina Suonpaa, who had 17 saves.

Jenner wore the captain’s ‘C’ in the absence of Marie-Philip Poulin, who did not play after reinjuring a problem knee in Monday’s first period of a 5-1 win over Russia.

Head coach Perry Pearn wasn’t ready to declare Poulin out of the tournament before her knee is assessed by the medical staff.

“The decision will be made, but I will be surprised if she is able to play,” Pearn said.

Defending champion United States (4-0) topped Group A ahead of Canada, Finland (2-2), Russia (1-3) and Switzerland (0-4).

All Group A countries and the top three in Group B advanced to the quarterfinals. The bottom Group B countries — Sweden and France — were relegated.

The Czech Republic (4-0), Germany (1-1-1-1) and Japan (2-2) placed first to third respectively in Group B.

So Thursday’s other quarterfinal matchups will be: United States and Japan; Finland and the Czech Republic; Russia and Switzerland.

The winner of U.S.-Japan meets the winner of Russia-Switzerland in one semifinal, while the Canada-Germany victor takes on the Finland-Czech winner in Saturday’s other semifinal.

The medal games are Sunday.

The Finns had momentum behind them after back-to-back wins over Switzerland and Russia.

But the Canadians dominated the faceoff circle, didn’t allow the Finns clean entries into the offensive zone and stalked Finland’s net to produce a pair of first-period goals.

“We actually didn’t have a game plan for the Finns,” Pearn said. “We just have a game plan for what we want to do. I thought tonight was the closest we’ve come to executing it for a full 60 minutes.”

A rematch is in the cards Saturday if the two countries win their respective quarterfinals.

“We have a feeling we’re going to be meeting them again so definitely sending a statement today was very important,” Bettez said.

“Winning each period today for us was huge. We want to play our best hockey moving onto the medal rounds and I think we’re getting closer to that goal.”

Raty said leaving the game late in the second period after Canada’s third goal — Gabel’s second — was a mutual decision with head coach Pasi Mustonen.

“The game kind of got out of hand there, so that was the plan — if they have a lead then why not rest for Thursday because that’s the bigger game,” the veteran said.

Raty didn’t look entirely comfortable in the first period, however.

“That was her decision, some sort of problem with something. I don’t know,” Mustonen said. “Probably a measure to take to be sure to be able to play on Thursday.”

Sweden, meanwhile, will not play in the top-tier world championship in Halifax next year for the first time in tournament history. The Swedes were relegated with a 3-2 loss to Japan.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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