Meeri Raisanen (via LeijonatTV/YouTube)
Meeri Raisanen, the goaltender for the Finnish women’s national team, has signed a deal with a team in Finland’s third league that will allow her to play both men’s and women’s hockey next season. Raisanen was one of the top goaltenders at the 2015 Women’s World Championship, posting a 1.99 GAA and .932 SP.
Meeri Raisanen will become the most interesting woman in professional hockey next season. The 25-year-old Finnish netminder has signed a deal that will allow her to play in both men’s and women’s competition for the 2015-16 campaign.
Raisanen announced via her Twitter and Instagram accounts Tuesday evening that she has come to terms with a third-division team in Finland, D-Kiekko, and JYP Jyvaskyla’s women’s club to play between the pipes for both teams.
“An athlete lives for new challenges and progressing from ups and downs during their career,” wrote Raisanen. “This is just what I needed right now. Want to say huge thank you to the people who have believed me, coached me and been there no matter what. Without you I wouldn't be here!”
While other women’s goaltenders have made the jump to men’s hockey, most recently the SPHL’s Shannon Szabados and Finnish netminder Noora Raty, Raisanen’s situation is incredibly unique in that neither Raty nor Szabados play outside of the men’s leagues. Both have Szabados and Raty had previously conquered the women’s game and moved on to focus their efforts on playing against men.
Before heading to play in the Finnish women’s league, Raisanen spent one season in the NCAA with Robert Morris in 2010-11, posting a 3-8-4 record with an .889 save percentage and 3.43 goals against. Her game has vastly improved since her stint in the NCAA, however. At the 2014-15 European Women’s Championship Cup, she was named goaltender of the tournament with six wins, .954 SP, 1.12 GAA and two shutouts in six outings.
Before landing the deal with D-Kiekko, Raisanen had also suited up for Finland’s women’s national team at the Olympics as the backup netminder behind Raty and split time with her at the women’s World Championship in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
With Raty focusing on her men’s professional career, though, Raisanen took the reins at the 2015 women’s Worlds and was one of the best goaltenders in the tournament. Through five games, Raisanen posted a 2-1-2 record with 1.99 GAA and .932 SP, leading the Finnish women to a bronze medal with a 4-1 victory over Russia.
Raty finished her 2014-15 campaign with Bewe TuusKi of Suomi-sarja, the Finnish third league, so it’s possible Raisanen and Raty could battle each other in a men’s game as soon as next season.
“Hard work has paid off and more challenges to come,” Raisanen wrote. “So excited for upcoming season!”