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Women's World Championships semifinal preview

It's playoff round time today for the best women playing hockey in the world.

Friday was the quarterfinals and the first relegation game, so first, a refresher on that day's action.

Quarterfinals

In the match up that reveals the oddity of this tournament format, Russia, winless in their round robin, faced the Pool B winners, Sweden, and were still the heavily favoured team.

Pool A, where Russia has struggled against Canada, USA and Finland, is the much harder group.

Sweden showed similar form in this game to their match against Switzerland that they barely won. They cannot convert on the power play, and while their goaltending is good, the offensive support is weak. They had 6 power play chances and converted on one for their only goal in a 4-1 loss

This game emphasizes the fact that Russia has fully leapfrogged over Sweden into fourth place in Women's hockey. With the joining of the Russian women's league to the KHL next year, we should expect that trend to continue. They now want to jump Finland.

In the other match up, the surprise of this year's tournament, newly promoted Czech Republic took on Finland. The Czechs worked hard to get as far as they did, but the solid and experienced Finnish team was way too much for them. The final score was 5-0 Finland and they outshot the Czechs 44-8.

The Czechs and the Swedes play a match today to determine final place in the rankings, and a Czech win would be a major upset.

Relegation

Switzerland rolled over Japan for a 3-1 win on 27 shots to Japan's 15. Florence Schelling, who had one shaky game in the round robin, was excellent. Japan once again had trouble generating offence.

The relegation round is best of three, and the second game goes today where Japan needs a miracle to force the third game.

Semifinals

First up at 6pm Eastern time is the undefeated, stunningly good team USA against the underdog Russians. To say the USA is favoured to win is an understatement. They've been fantastic all tournament and go into this match with a 13-2 goal differential.

Russia, is playing over their head here, and they know it. They just want to have a respectable performance.

Next at 10:30 Eastern time Canada, with one loss to the USA, takes on Finland in the other semifinal. Canada's goal differential is an impressive 15-5, and Finland will need one of those miracles to beat the home team. Their round robin meeting was just on Thursday, and Canada took it 6-1.

The winners of today's matches go for gold tomorrow and the losers play for bronze. The medal games are on a Monday night. Perfectly sensible, don't you think?