SOCHI, Russia - The last time the U.S. Women’s National Team faced off against Finland, Noora Raty was laughing to herself and had American players wondering what they had to do to score.
Raty’s 58-save performance powered Finland to a 3-1 victory at the 2013 Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., and sent ripples through the women’s hockey world, marking the first time the U.S. missed out on playing in the championship game in the 18-year history of the event. The U.S. did not participate in the 2001 tournament in Finland due to the 9/11 attacks.
A similar result here on Saturday in the opening game of the women’s Olympic hockey tournament would send seismic tremors through a sport that is desperate for parity at the international level.
“I just remember that I was extremely lucky, but I guess I earned my luck,” Raty said of her effort back in November.
“At one point I remember I was laughing ‘how am I making all these saves.’ It was one of those games where you get in a zone and nothing goes by you. I hope the same thing happens tomorrow because that’s going to be needed.”
One major difference, Raty said, is that this time Amanda Kessel will be in the lineup for the U.S. The two were teammates on the University of Minnesota squad that won back-to-back NCAA titles. They were also finalists, along with their Gopher teammate Megan Bozek, for the 2013 Patty Kazmaier Award.
“She’s the best player in the world right now,” Raty said. “It’s a good thing for other teams that she hasn’t been able to play the whole year, she would be a rock star if she was able to play the whole year.
“We need to be aware that she’s on the ice or for sure she will find the back of the net. It’s going to be a lot of fun to go against her. We had some real good battles in practice the past couple of years and I think we made each other better players.”
While a groin injury sidelined her for all of the Bring on the World Tour, Kessel has declared herself as 100 percent and ready to go in her first Olympics. And she can think of no better way to kick things off than to face her friend and former teammate.
“I think it should be interesting to watch because I know her spots and she knows where I like to shoot as well,” Kessel said. “I guess I can give my teammates a few good tips.”
Getting to Raty early may be a key for the U.S. squad that still remembers the events in Lake Placid more than three months earlier.
“I don’t think there is any secret to beating her. If there is I haven’t found it yet. She’s a world-class goaltender,” said Megan Bozek, who led the U.S. attack with 11 shots on Raty the last time they met.
“She’s kept Finland in many games and was a big reason why they upset us at the Four Nations. Shots. Lots of shots early on, keep shooting and get people in front of the net.”
The victory in Lake Placid, which the Finns call their own “Miracle on Ice,” has provided the team with a shot of confidence heading into Sochi.
“We haven’t had much success against them in the past four years. I think the last time we beat them was before Vancouver so it was a confidence builder for our team and especially the younger players,” Raty said.
For their part, the Finns have spent hours watching the tape of the game and will look to exploit any weakness to gain an advantage.
“I remember that we killed a lot of penalties in that game so we can learn from what we did on the PK and what they’re going to try to do on their power play,” Raty said. “But we’ve played them quite a few times over the last few years so we know what to expect.”
As much as the victory was a shot in the arm for the Finns, it provided a kick in the pants for the Americans, who made some changes to their training regiment heading down the homestretch. Among those changes has been the implementation of small area games into every U.S. practice.
“Back in November I didn’t think we were a very good team so we went to condensing what we were doing, forcing them to make decisions faster, using better support, coming back to the puck,” said U.S. head coach Katey Stone.
And while they know that much of the focus will on the Finnish netminder, the Americans know that they need to worry about themselves and play their own style of attacking hockey if they want to be successful.
“She’s an incredible goalie, and she has a solid team in front of her, too,” said U.S. power forward Lyndsey Fry. “But we’re a different team now, and we’re going to throw everything at her. I think if we play our game we can put pucks behind her.
“We’ve just grown so much. The last time we played them was in November and here we are. Our goal is to get better every day and I think we’ve done that. We’re a better team than we were back then, and I’m sure she’s a better goalie so it’s going to be a great battle.”
Remember when score sheets simply consisted of three or four carbon copies at the scorer’s table?
While we’re still likely to see that classic technique at some facilities, most have abandoned the handwritten score sheets in favor of electronic scoring systems and advanced score sheets – or minimally combined the process of both.
But whether it’s handwritten or electronic, the score sheet is not deemed “good to go” until an official signs off on it at the conclusion of the game. Rule 502(e) is clear in saying, “At the conclusion of the game, the referee shall check the official score sheet, including team rosters and players in uniform, for accuracy prior to signing.”
The game score sheet is considered an official record that documents the participants and the actions that take place during a game. Teams need them to document participation for eligibility in state or national tournaments, or to provide verification of a suspension served. They may also be keeping stats on players for their continued development and promotion to higher levels of play. Plus, the score sheet provides a means to track progressive penalties or to identify trends within a local area or league.
Regardless as to what system is used (hard copy or electronic scoring), the game score sheet is considered an official document and officials must adhere to their responsibility to treat it as such. Whereas the vast majority of officials have been good at reviewing and signing off on hard copy score sheets, there appears to be some confusion as to the need to verify the electronic version.
The electronic score sheet is an official document. Teams print these from the web-based system to verify their eligibility as mentioned above. Because it is an official record of the game, the officials have the responsibility to make sure all data is entered correctly, including the officials’ names, and must sign-off on the information prior to having the game sheet closed and finalized. This is no different than crossing off blank areas, making sure penalties are recorded properly and signing the actual hard copy score sheet.
As a refresher, here are some tips on what to look for, and the officials’ responsibility to verify game sheets at the conclusion of every game.
1) Make sure that players who are not present to participate in the game are crossed off (hard copy) or removed from the game sheet (electronic). Only those players/coaches who are eligible and present to participate should be listed on the score sheet.
2) Confirm all penalties are recorded properly and to the proper player. Many times a game misconduct penalty will be recorded as a ten-minute misconduct or vice versa. If a player is assessed a minor plus misconduct, each of those must be recorded as a separate penalty. If you find there is a clerical error where a penalty was assessed properly, but not recorded correctly, fix the mistake prior to signing or closing off the game sheet.
However, an official is not allowed to simply change their call that was made during the game. For example, if an official assesses a major penalty for slashing during the game and the player serves the five minute major, but after the game, the officials talk and determine that the player deserved a major plus game misconduct penalty, or match penalty instead, the score sheet cannot be changed at this time. The officials may submit an incident report requesting the incident be reviewed under Rule 410 Supplementary Discipline.
3) Make sure all of the on-ice officials who worked the game are listed properly on the game sheet.
4) Once you have determined that all of the recorded information is accurate, the officials must sign (legibly) the hard copy of the score sheet or sign off and approve the electronic version so it can be finalized.
The one exception is when the scorekeeper manually keeps track of all of the game actions, but will then later enter the data into an electronic system. In this instance, it is important for the referee to make sure the document the scorekeeper used to record actions is accurate and they understand the penalties assessed so they can be entered properly. It may be a good idea to go back at a later time and check the electronic version for accuracy, as well.
The bottom line is that the game sheet for each game you work is a reflection of your performance on the ice. If you do not pay attention to details and there are inaccuracies on the game sheet, the perception will be your performance on the ice was also lacking effort and attention to detail. Not to mention, it may also effect any potential imposed suspensions and/or eligibility of players/coaches.
Please take score sheet (hard copy or electronic versions) management seriously as it is a major part of the official’s responsibility. Doing so will make life easier for volunteers who are charged with tracking such things and will make the game better. And if the game is better, your job as an official probably becomes more enjoyable, too.