The IIHF, which had a video judge review every goal during the tournament, cited two rules in saying the goal by Petra Nieminen at 11:33 of overtime was disallowed due to non-incidental goaltender interference.
Nieminen's goal sparked a wild celebration on Sunday as jubilant fans cheered what would have been Finland's first championship in its first appearance in the title game.
After a lengthy video review, the goal was called back.
Finland captain Jenni Hiirikoski had made contact with American goaltender Alex Rigsby, who was moving out of her crease, as she passed in front of the net. Hiirikoski wasn't assessed a goaltender interference penalty, but Rigsby was given a tripping minor.
The IIHF said the video judge weighed two rules in making the decision to waive off the goal.
One states: "An attacking skater who makes contact other than incidental with a goaltender who is out of his goal crease during game action will be assessed a minor penalty for interference. If a goal is scored at this time, it will not count." The other states: "Incidental contact is allowed when the goaltender is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease, provided the attacking skater makes a reasonable effort to minimize or avoid such contact."
Once the goal was waived off, the referees decided to uphold the tripping penalty. The Americans killed off two penalties in overtime before winning the game in a shootout as dispirited fans watched their devastated team await their runner-up honors.
Finnish Ice Hockey Federation chief executive officer Matti Nurminen said referees planned to give a penalty to Rigsby for tripping and were allowing the goal.
"But when it goes to video review, the power and authority goes (to) the video-goal judges," he said after the game. "They saw it as goalie interference and made that decision."
Hiirikoski did not think she had illegally interfered with the American.
"She came out from her crease," she said. "What can you do? We don't make the decisions."
Rigsby saw it a different way: "I knew right away that it was not a goal. I was trying to ask the ref how I got a penalty, considering I was the one who got body-slammed. But the ref thinks I tried tripping the player when I was on the ground, and somehow I end up with the penalty. Funny how that went."
Finland coach Pasi Mustonen said the play was simple: it was either a penalty on Hiirikoski for goalie interference and no goal or a penalty on Rigsby and a goal by Nieminen. He said he received no explanation from officials about the decision.
"They never come to me. They are ordered not to talk," Mustonen said after the game. "They never can communicate, which means they destroy the atmosphere between the referees and the teams. They don't really have the self-confidence that is needed to communicate with people in this atmosphere and that is the problem, which is also a matter of competence. We need male referees. All the female referees that are mature enough to be here, naturally, they should be here, but there are so few in the world."
In Toronto, Finnish forward Kasperi Kapanen of the Maple Leafs said the call was botched.
"I think they kind of messed it up ... that's what happens. It is what it is," he told The Canadian Press. "It would have been nice for them to win. It would have been good for women's hockey, and just our country in general."
Kapanen wasn't the only one confused by the call.
Former American women's team captain Julie Chu tweeted, "What is going onnnnn? If it's not a goal, then Finland should have a penalty for goalie interference. If it's a goal, then it means USA tripped Finland and the Finnish goal is good...? If it's no goal, then how does USA have penalty? Someone help me??"
Former Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser tweeted: "That. Was. A. Goal. #suomi."
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