Imagine this scenario. You’re the Finnish head coach for the women’s hockey team and you need to pick a starting goalie. Up until now it was as easy as throwing in Noora Raty because she’s the 2nd best goalie in women’s hockey and the best goalie Finland has. Now though there is a contender to Raty’s throne and her name is Meeri Raisanen.
Raisanen has been a growing goalie for Finland these past few years. This past World Championships she has burst onto the scene and now nearly everyone in the world of women’s hockey knows who Meeri Raisanen is. Now the rise of Raisanen started before this World’s Championship. Raisanen started with the Finnish National Program in the 2006/07 season with the U18 team. Passed over for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Raisanen did earn back-up duty twice before the 2014 Sochi Olympics behind Noora Raty at the 2012 and 2013 World Championships.
For the 2014 Sochi Olympics Raisanen was given the nod and while she didn’t play any games it’s still a large accomplishment to make it to the Olympics. After Sochi it’s been the Meeri Raisanen show for the Finnish National Team. At the 2015 World Championships Meeri Raisanen took the crease as Noora Raty couldn’t go. Usually when you lose the 2nd best goalie in the world you’re results will suffer especially when that goalie is responsible for more than a few wins.
What Raisanen did though is take control and make her first big impact on international ice as a starting goalie. In the 6 games Raisanen played at the 2015 World Championships she had a GAA of 1.99 and a SV% of 0.932. Her stats are impressive considering this is Raisanen’s first time taking the starting role in a high stakes international tournament. The most impressive part of the Raisanen’s 2015 tournament run is ending with a Bronze Medal and being named to the tournament’s All-Star Team.
The Finnish coaching staff believed that they had a great goalie on their hands so when it came to the 2016 World Championships Meeri Raisanen was given the crease once again. Raisanen did not only prove that the coaches made the right move but she certainly proved herself on the 2nd biggest stage in women’s hockey as a steady starter.
I think everyone can remember when Meeri Raisanen really broke into the hockey news. March 29th, 2016 its Finland vs. Team USA. Both teams had played the night before and won. Finland beat Russia 5-3 and the American’s beat Canada 3-1. The odds were against the Finnish team though as the Americans are one of the best conditioned teams in hockey and can play back-to-back games with very little dip in play. It wasn’t a question of if the American’s would win only how big the score would be for the Americans.
That was the question at least before Meeri Raisanen did Meeri Raisanen things. Despite being outshot 51-7, Meeri Raisanen made sure the game never got out of hand on the scoreboard at least. Raisanen was successful on the ice because she knows she can only control how many saves she makes and not what happens on 98% of the ice surface. Every bit of praise that Raisanen received from that game versus that American’s was well deserved.
Later on in the semi-finals Meeri Raisanen and Finland provided a scare to Team Canada ultimately losing 5-3. In the Bronze Medal Game that followed Raisanen and the Finnish team had their own surprise sprang on them as another up-and-coming goalie outdueled Raisanen for the Bronze Medal. Despite missing out on the Bronze Medal Raisanen had herself a coming out party. Raisanen once again was named to the tournament All-Star team and was named as a Top 3 player for her own team.
To put the cherry on top of her 2015/16 season Raisanen played 9 games for D-Kiekko of the Finnish Men’s 3rd Tier league which is no small accomplishment as that’s the league where Noora Raty also played. Just before the World Championships Raisanen joined JYP of the Finnish Women’s League and dominated. She played 5 games to finish the regular season then went into the playoffs as a dominating force. Raisanen and JYP swept the only two series they were a part of. For the finishing touch on a dominating performance where Raisanen put up a 6-0 record, a 0.80 GAA and 0.969 SV%, Raisanen won the league’s championship 1-0 in OT.
To have these type of accomplishments and rise to the level Raisanen is currently at you need to be able to play the game on ice. So let’s take a look at what makes Raisanen the 4th best goalie in women’s hockey on the ice. To be a high level goalie you need to have hockey IQ on a high level. Raisanen’s hockey IQ is one display in a variety of ways. When you watch Raisanen you’ll notice how she controls her depth in the crease. This is important because Raisanen understands you can’t move faster than a pass so she’ll retreat back into her crease which allows her to take a shorter route to the where the puck is going.
Another aspect of Raisanen that I personally like is how she seals the ice down low. Raisanen takes advantage of her 5’ 7” frame and uses a very wide butterfly which almost takes away the complete bottom of the net. While Raisanen isn’t the quickest side-to-side among goalies, when she does move there are very few holes which is important and on display versus the American’s at the 2016 World Championships.
Last but not least there is Raisanen’s one-on-one ability. It’s difficult being in a breakaway situation because if you blink first then you will be scored on. Going through the 2016 World Championship footage there was more than a few breakaways on Raisanen. The highlights are full of them yet Raisanen is there to make the stop on what is a high scoring chance. You don’t need to tell me how impressive that is or how impressive Raisanen is in net.