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Finland, Russia play for women’s hockey 5th place

February 18, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Finland goalie Noora Raty has one more game in her Olympic career, then she will say goodbye to women’s hockey’s biggest event.

Raty was 16 when she played for Finland at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, and she led the Finns to a bronze medal in Vancouver four years later. She went on to win back-to-back NCAA championships at the University of Minnesota, going 41-0-0 last season while setting the career and single-season record for shutouts.

This year, Finland entered the Sochi Games as favorite to finish third behind the two North American powers but lost in the quarterfinals to archrival Sweden. Raty said in a letter posted to Twitter this week that she will retire after the Olympics, and for Finland that comes with the fifth-place game against Russia on Tuesday.

“Before the season started, I made a decision that my national team career will end here in Sochi,” she wrote, explaining that she had planned to wait until after the tournament to make the announcement but let it slip after the disappointing loss to Sweden eliminated Finland from medal contention.

“I don’t feel that women’s hockey will grow or get any better in the future if the USA or Canada don’t get a professional league started soon. That is the next critical step that our sport needs to take or our sport will never be respected like it should be.”

Raty said she would try to get a job with a men’s professional league, where players are paid enough that they don’t need outside jobs. The Russian women’s pro league is not competitive, she said, and the one in North America pays expenses but not salaries.

“I guess the time will show if some men’s pro team is willing to give me a chance,” she wrote. “I will hang up my skates for good if I can’t play professional hockey IN A COMPETITIVE LEAGUE NEXT SEASON.”

Finland still has a chance to finish fifth if it can beat host Russia on Tuesday. Japan and Germany will play in the seventh-place game, giving the Japanese one more chance to get their first-ever Olympic women’s hockey victory.

The Japanese lost all three games in the round-robin, including a 4-0 round-robin defeat to Germany. Sunday’s 6-3 loss to Russia left them trying to avoid the Olympic cellar.

Japan had never earned its way into the Olympics before 2014. The only time it had played in the Winter Games was in Nagano in 1998, when it received an automatic berth as the host nation.

Germany’s only victory so far was against Japan.

The consolation games on Tuesday will set the bottom four rankings before the gold and bronze medal games on Thursday. The United States will play Canada in the championship for the fourth time in five Olympics, and Sweden will play Switzerland in the bronze medal match.

The Americans beat Sweden 6-1 and Canada beat Switzerland 3-1.

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