Japan has been one of the more intriguing stories of the women's hockey tournament at the 2022 Winter Olympics, but their hopes of competing for a medal came to an unfortunate end early Saturday morning in their 7-1 loss to Finland in the quarterfinals. Despite the strong effort, Finland was just too much to handle.
Finnish forward Petra Nieminen netted a hat trick and added a pair of assists in the contest, giving her seven points through five games in the tournament.
Japanese netminder Nana Fujimoto, who had been stellar all tournament long, was peppered throughout the contest and allowed all seven goals on 42 shots faced. Her numbers don't look pretty on the scoresheet, but she was hardly the reason for Japan's defeat.
Finland outshot Japan 49-25 and seemingly created quality scoring chances at will. It was a dominant performance from Nieminen and company, and they were due for a showing like this after a very rough start to the tournament.
The Finns are now set to take on the U.S. — who they lost to during the preliminary stage 5-2 — in the semifinals for the second consecutive Olympics. They fell to the Americans 5-0 in the semis in PyeongChang before the U.S. went on to defeat Canada in the gold medal game to win its first women's hockey title since 1998.
More recently, Finland faced the U.S. for gold at the Women's World Championship in 2019. After scoring what many believed to be the overtime winner in the championship game, the Finnish goal was disallowed after it was deemed Jenni Hiirikoski interfered with American goaltender Alex Rigsby. Following a lengthy celebration, the Finns had to gather their equipment and resume the contest. The U.S. went on to win the gold medal in the shootout.
It's one of the most heartbreaking losses in the history of international hockey competition, and it's hard to imagine the Finns have forgotten it.
Puck drop for the semifinal tilt between the U.S. and Finland is set for 8:10 a.m. ET on February 14.