Former teammates face off

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

Saara Tuominen is going to have to come up with something new for the face-off circle tonight.

When Finland meets Canada tonight at MTS Centre in the final game of the playoff round-robin, it will pit coach against players, teacher against students.

Canada centre Caroline Ouellette spent the winter as a first-year assistant coach with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, and two of her players there, freshmen Tuominen and defenceman Heidi Pelttari, also play for Finland's national team.

The winner of tonight's game will meet the U.S. in tomorrow's gold-medal match, so there likely won't be a lot of chatter among the trio once the puck drops.

"I have played against her many times before, but now it's more weird because we have spent all year together," Tuominen said.

Coincidentally, Ouellette spent the winter teaching Tuominen, 19, how to be better at faceoffs, so it should be interesting when the meet at the dots tonight.

"She knows what I'm trying!" Tuominen said. "So I have to try something else."

The Bulldogs are only three weeks removed from a run to the NCAA title game, which they lost to Wisconsin.

So the trio, who fought together only a month ago, will meet as enemies tonight; not that they see each other that way, however.

"Obviously it's very special to play against them," Ouellette said. "I care about them a lot and I want them to do well. It's just very competitive when we play each other.

"I know when they're out there, I know their tendencies. It's fun. It's very different."

PROUD PARENT

Pelttari, 22, was asked if it will be difficult to play against Ouellette since she knows their tendencies.

"No, we know also how she plays," Pelttari said with a smile.

Ouellette, 27, sounds like a proud parent when discussing her two pupils, even though she will be doing everything in her power to stop them tonight.

"When they arrived they could barely speak English," said Ouellette, who played her college hockey at UMD. "And Saara, for example, studied chemistry, and she ended up with a GPA over 3.0, which showed how dedicated she is to her school.

"And it's the same thing with hockey. She's such a tremendous athlete that wants to learn every day."

Pelttari, meanwhile, was academically ineligible to play before Christmas, but "she was one of our best D at the end of the year," Ouellette said.

Tuominen said there were no instances this season in which Ouellette yelled at her, so she won't be trying to exact any sort of revenge tonight with a slash here or an elbow there.

"She's not like that," Tuominen said. "She always tries to explain things, not by yelling. She's a really, really good coach."


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