Finals set for Friday, Saturday at WinSport to decide Under-21 global champ

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The get-to-know-each-other games are now behind them.

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Time to ring in the now-it’s-on deal at the 2023 World Ringette Championships.

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It’s Finland versus Canada — guests against hosts — in pursuit of global supremacy at the Calgary-hosted international event.

“Excited,” said Canada head coach Andrea Ferguson of the Under-21 world final for gold medals. “It’s for real.

“It’s for keeps.”

It’s a two-game series — with a possible mini-game slotted to decide the title, if necessary — which goes Friday (7 p.m., TELUS Optik 1999, and Saturday (7 p.m., TELUS Optik 1999, at the Markin MacPhail Centre.

“It’s super exciting for us,” said Calgary’s Regan Meier, a centre and assistant captain for Canada at these championships. “This group is hungry, and we’re eager, and we’re excited to get back on the ice. I’m just really proud of the progress we’ve made together to get to this point.”

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‘This point’ is the pinnacle of ringette globally.

The week at hand is played to determine the sport’s queens for the next two years, with either Canada or Finland set to lay claim to those bragging rights.

The two countries — the only two at the top level of junior ringette for these championships — will have played four games by the end of the WinSport event.

The first two went Monday — with Finland pulling off a 7-2 win — and late Wednesday night — with another Finland victory by a 5-2 score — as prep games for the subsequent two-game final.

And from that finale, the winner will be declared — perhaps with an extra 15-minute quarter needed if they split victories.

“This does count,” said Ferguson, of the prep games early in the week. “We can see how we measure up. We see what we have to go back to work on and fix. We tune some minor details and really clean up what we do in practice. It all matters.”

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But Ferguson & Co know that it’s not certain to make them global champs.

After all, the margin of difference is slim between the Finns and the Canadians.

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In the last junior worlds, the hosts won in Espoo, Finland. Before that, it was the Canucks winning three straight titles at the U21 level.

Basically, it’s been those two nations battling it out for supremacy at both the senior and junior levels since the first ringette worlds in 1990 in Gloucester, Ont.

“I don’t really think there are many differences,” Ferguson said. “Our team can compete with anybody. We saw (Monday and Wednesday) that it was back-and-forth and back-and-forth, and while the score didn’t end in our favour, there were a lot of good moments that we can take from that game. We clean up some small details, and it’s a different story. At this level, it’s just like any sport — one mistake, and you’re in trouble. They capitalize on it that quick. We clean up that, and we’ll be fine.”

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“They really see the ice well,” said Meier of the Finns. “And their pass reception to open ice is strong. But I think we also do that well, so we can learn from that and adapt to it and work with that.”

Meier and the Canadians first got together as a team back in May, when a selection camp was held in Chestermere.

They then reunited in July for a weekend together in Montreal.

Since then, they met in Calgary for a week.

And in one final preparation for the worlds, the host team congregated here last Wednesday, playing the National Ringette League’s Calgary RATH in an exhibition tilt prior to the weekend’s opening of the worlds.

“We’ve been training super hard for this on and off the ice since May and before that,” said Meier, a 19-year-old University of Calgary student in neuroscience. “It’s a really great group. We have a great coaching staff and support staff. And we play our best when we’re having fun. And so it’s cool to see this all come together.”

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Even cooler?

How about winning the title in front of the home-country fans?

“There’s always a lot of anticipation just to see how the Finns are and how we’re going to compete against them,” added Meier. “I’ve been really happy with our energy and our compete level. I think we’ve been really aggressive on the ring all over the ice. Canadian ringette is known for being very aggressive and hard-working on the ring. It’s been really all six people on the ice playing together as a team and as a unit, which is what we need to compete. We’ve been jumping on the loose rings and really seeing the ice well.

“We’ve got a great foundation to build off — great energy, and super supportive — so I’m really excited. We’re just really trying to stay present in the moment and take in the experience. And when we do that, the ringette is going to come and we will really build off that.”

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Meier and Quebec’s Laurence Lacombe had the two goals for Canada on Wednesday night … On Monday, it was Lacombe and New Brunswick’s Manon Vautour with Canada’s tallies … The United States advanced to Saturday’s final of the President’s Pool with its third win of the worlds. That came over Czech Republic by a score of 11-0 Wednesday afternoon. Forwards Campbell Schnurr and Nyah Bodnarchuk both put up five-point performances (2 G, 3 A). It was a penalty-heavy game, with Team Czech Republic spending more than a quarter a player down. Czech goalie Katerina Dvorãkovã made 59 saves … The competition continues Thursday with Sweden vs. USA (7 p.m.,

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