My boss Brian Costello said it best: Noora Raty is validating her place on the People of Power List.
Our annual POP Issue is one of my favorites, as it invokes such a strong reaction from readers, not to mention hockey personalities lobbying to make our top 100.
Fair or not, the women who crack the POP list tend to polarize our audience. Some readers believe we don't include enough and others feel women still don't influence the sport enough to warrant high rankings. Here's a look at who cracked our 2013 edition, which was released just before Christmas:
50. Meghan Agosta-Marciano
59. Amanda Kessel
63. Noora Raty
If you don't know the first two names on the list, you will soon, as Canada's Agosta-Marciano and USA's Kessel are the best two scorers in women's hockey. But Raty, Finland's goalie? Arguably our gutsiest selection in the 2013 POP edition.
Our reasoning: while gold would almost certainly belong to Canada or the U.S. in Sochi, Raty had the ability to be the tournament's most influential player. She was the person capable of derailing a juggernaut almost singlehandedly.
Flash forward to today and Raty gave us a taste of her dominance. For two periods, the powerhouse Canadians couldn't solve her. Canada got to her in the third after 50 minutes and 33 seconds of 0-0 hockey, but Raty still finished with 39 stops on 42 shots for a .929 save percentage. At the other end, Shannon Szabados didn't break a sweat in a 14-save shutout.
This wasn't a fluke game in which an unknown stood on her head. Raty stopped 40 of 43 shots in a 3-1 defeat to the U.S. in Finland's first group stage game and her tournament SP is .929. She stopped 58 of 59 shots in Finland's upset victory over the U.S. last fall at the Four Nations Cup. And she's a two-time NCAA champion out of the University of Minnesota.
Raty showed today she can turn the tide in women's hockey on any given day and produce an upset more monumental than anything we'll see on the men's side.
And despite Finland losing its first two games, the threat remains. The women's tournament is formatted so that all four teams in the top tier – Canada, USA, Finland and Switzerland – make the playoff round. The first two advance right to the semifinal and the bottom two play the top two finishers from Group B (Sweden, Russia, Germany, Japan). Translation: Finland only has to defeat a Group B team for the right to play Canada or the U.S. in an elimination game.
And if that comes to fruition, Noora Raty will be in either superpower's head. She's that good.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin