Team Canada held off podium for first time in history of Women’s World Championship

Photo courtesy: Football Canada

Team Canada has been held off the podium at the IFAF Women’s World Championship for the first time in the event’s history, falling 19-17 to host Finland in the Bronze Medal Game on Sunday.

Canada had taken home silver medals in all three previous Women’s World Championships but were defeated by Great Britain on Thursday, preventing a fourth straight title fight against Team USA. Finland was heavy underdogs to take home the bronze but a 26-yard field goal by Laura Pulkkinen with 1:11 left secured the upset on home soil in Vaanta.

Pulkkinen’s score, her second field goal of the day, capped an 8-play, 41-yard drive that took up 4:29 after Canada had gone ahead on a Ricki Obed touchdown.

After a scoreless first quarter, Canada opened their account on a 1-yard run by Sarah Wright (Saskatoon, Sask.) just 24 seconds into the second period. The Canadians, who came into the tournament at the No. 2 seed, extended their lead to 10 points on a 24-yard field goal by Kristie Elliott (North Vancouver, B.C.). Pulkkinen cut the lead to 10-3 with her first field goal of the day, this one just before halftime.

Finland took the lead in the third quarter, as quarterback Emilia Raty called her own number twice — both times from one yard out — to put the hosts up 16-10 with 12 minutes to play.

Canada took the lead back in the fourth quarter, as Maude Lacasse (Montreal, Que.) found Obed (Saskatoon, Sask.) in the end zone on a seven-yard pass with 5:44 left. That score capped a four-play, 33-yard drive for the Canadians. On the ensuing drive, Canada looked to have recovered a fumble that would have put them back into the drivers’ seat, but an offside penalty gave the Finns a first down, a second life and four plays later, the winning points off the foot of Pulkkinen.

Finland outgained Canada 262 yards to 193, with Finland picking up 210 on the ground, while Canada had 163 through the air. Finland made 15 first downs to Team Canada’s 10 and held the ball for 27:04 compared to 20:56 for Canada.

Lacasse threw for 164 yards — her highest total of the event — as she completed 17-of-30 passes. She threw one interception as well as a touchdown. Her favourite receiver was Laurence Pontbriand (Montreal, Que.), who had five catches for 27 yards, while Virginie Roussell (Montreal, Que.) and Wright each had four receptions.

For Finland, Raty went 7-for-18 for 52 yards passing. Finland’s Tytti Kuusinen had 121 yards rushing on 19 carries, while Mari Jääskelä carried 12 times for 84 yards. Canada’s leading rusher was Wright, who had 20 yards on 10 carries.

Defensively, Emmarae Dale (Saskatoon, Sask.) led Canada with seven tackles, including one for loss, and an interception. Haley Girolami (Saskatoon, Sask.) had Canada’s other interception. For Finland, Essi Saasatmoinen led with 7.5 tackles, while Oona Tuomi had six tackles and Finland’s lone interception.

With the loss, Canada finishes in fourth place. Canada’s overall record in World Championship play now sits at 7-5. The win gives Finland the bronze medal for the third time in their history.

Team USA would go on to seize to gold medal later in the day, toppling Great Britain by a score of 42-14.