Canada - Russia
Going into this game, there were a lot of concerns about the Canadian team’s poor performance so far in group play. They opened the tournament with a 2-0 loss to the US, and then lost to Finland for the first time in World Championship history. Russia, the weakest team in Group A, would be a test—was this a matter of a team needing to gel, or something more serious? We got our answer in the form of eight goals and a Shannon Szabados shutout.
While the first ten-ish minutes seemed like a teeth-clenching reprise of the first two losing performances, Szabados stood strong, and gave the Canadian offense time to collect itself. Jennifer Wakefield opened the scoring three-quarters of the way through the first, and then Canada scored three more goals in the next four minutes—a nice turning shot by Emily Clark in close, Wakefield potting a rebound, and finally Sarah Potomak putting in a point shot off Natalie Spooner’s knee (Spooner was compensated for the bruise with credit for the goal). The Canadians, whose offense had looked disjointed and out of sync at times in their first two games, went into the first intermission with a 4-0 lead.
There was only one goal scored in the second period, a beauty from the Toronto Furies’ own Erin Ambrose, her first goal in World Championship play. Despite starting the second with three Canadian minor penalties, including about a minute of 5-on-3 time, Szabados was able to keep Russia off the board. In the third, Brianne Jenner, Meghan Agosta, and Sarah Potomak (for real this time) added goals for Canada. Russia pulled Maria Sorokina after the Jenner goal, replacing her with Nadezhda Alexandrova, who nevertheless allowed two goals of her own. Shots finished up 41 to 16 for Canada, with a final score of 8-0, in exactly the decisive win the Canadian team needed.
Germany - Switzerland
Switzerland's Lara Stalder finally had the sort of game everyone was expecting to see from her and Germany's third goalie, Franziska Albl proved to be slightly less superhuman than her predecessors. Stalder got a breakaway nine and a half minutes into the first period and scored the first official goal of the game on a beautiful shot. Albl let in a total of five goals in the first period, including two within 38 seconds of each other. Two were called off, one for a kicking motion and one for being batted into the net with an elbow rather than a stick. The rest were just what happens when you let Stalder, Muller, Meier and Raselli have some room: the first goal for Stalder, two for Muller and assists all around.
Jennifer Harss, who started the first game, came in and stayed perfect for the final two periods, keeping her team in it. Germany scored two in the third period (Marie Delarbre and Anna-Marie Fiegert) and pulled Harss with just over a minute to go. Unfortunately for them, Alina Muller took advantage of the empty net to finish her hat trick (she scored a total of four points) and seal the game.
Sweden - Czech Republic
All the scoring for this game came in the first two periods. The Czechs raised Swiss hopes when Michaela Pejzlova scored first, but it was all Sweden from there on in. Johanna Fallman scored her first two goals of the tournament and Fanny Rask had the third Swedish goal. The third period involved neither scoring nor penalties. And in its penultimate game in the tournament, Rink Two's issue with the goal pegs seemed to have been solved.
USA - Finland
The primetime game last night was a doozy. Fresh off beating Canada for the first time ever in World Championship play on Saturday, the Finnish team and possible real-life witch Noora Räty took on a confident, unbeaten, un-scored-upon Team USA in a game that not only had repercussions for Finland’s seeding, but for Canada’s—anything other than a regulation win for the Americans would have forced Canada to play in the quarterfinal round for the first time ever. While it didn’t come to that, the Finns did their damnedest. Not five minutes in, Susanna Tapani slid right into the slot and beat Alex Rigsby clean, giving the Finns a 1-0 lead. This was the first goal the Americans had surrendered this tournament.
Susanna Tapani picks a corner and gives the lead pic.twitter.com/5lVnjVAodH— Women's Hockey Gifs (@CWHLHighlights) April 4, 2017
A theme of this game was penalties, many of which seemed questionable, and the Finns got the worst of it. There were eight penalties handed out to Finland over the course of the game, and not coincidentally, the US had three power-play goals. The first was scored by Hilary Knight on a 5-on-3, after the American power play employed some dizzyingly fast passing. The next two goals looked very similar—the Finns shorthanded, the Americans working the cycle, and forcing Räty to move from side to side in her crease until someone could bang the puck in.
ties it up after some pretty passing pic.twitter.com/FXCeTKtqag— Women's Hockey Gifs (@CWHLHighlights) April 4, 2017
This careful planning and execution was necessary because Noora Räty is a freaking magician. The US offense was getting a good amount of high-quality chances—while the Finnish defense is good, the Americans have a team that’s built to drown you in goals—and Räty was making increasingly spectacular saves. This glove save, for instance, on a Brianna Decker shot in close is unreal:
With less than a minute left in the second, Jenni Hiirikoski brought the score for Finland to 3-2. Halfway through the third, Michelle Karvinen, who was the best Finnish player on the ice not named Noora Räty, tied it up on a gorgeous unassisted rush. Rigsby, who’d sat for the first two games, looked a little rusty in this one. For a few minutes, it looked like Finland might beat both North American hockey powerhouses in round-robin play. Gigi Marvin had other ideas. From the corner, she fed a beautiful backhand pass to Hannah Brandt in the slot, and Brandt buried it for the US’s only even-strength goal of the game.
The US then proceeded to take two minor penalties, handing Finland a 5-on-3 for about a minute and a half, and on a more personal level nearly killing me. Somehow, they successfully killed it off, and Jocelyne Lamoreux-Davidson scored the empty-netter to ice it shortly thereafter. The US won, but it was much closer than either they or the Canadians probably would have liked. Finland has proven itself able to hang with the best teams in this tournament, in no small part because of their goaltender.
There are three games on the schedule today; two quarterfinal games, between the bottom two teams in Group A and the top two teams in Group B, and the first game of the three-game relegation series between the bottom two teams in Group B. The quarterfinal games will be broadcast in Canada on TSN, but the relegation games are only available online through HockeyTV, the paid subscription service that’s streaming World Championship games.
3:35pm ET: Finland vs. Sweden, TSN4/5
I would be very, very surprised if Finland does not win this game. Sweden finished second in Group B, winning two games and losing one, while Finland would be enjoying a quarterfinal bye if not for American Hero Hannah Brandt. Anything can happen in single-game elimination, though, and I have been wrong before (see below).
7:35pm ET: Russia vs. Germany, TSN2
If there’s a team that’s shocked me this tournament, Germany would have to take that crown. They came into Worlds ranked eighth, and in my Swiss preview, I referred to them as “hardly heavy competition.” They proceeded to win their first two games and were the first team in Group B to secure a quarterfinal berth, because hockey is a funny game sometimes. They’ve managed their wins through solid goaltending and a highly structured defense, which should make their quarterfinal matchup against Russia interesting. Russia’s a defensively messy team with some highly skilled forwards, and if there’s one team in Group A Germany might be able to upset, it’s the Russians.
Relegation Game 1 (best out of three):
12pm ET: Switzerland vs. Czech Republic, HockeyTV
The poor Czechs lost all their games this tournament, and to make matters worse, all those games were close. They’re now playing in the relegation round against their nemeses, the Swiss, who beat them in a shootout to open the tournament. The Czechs and the Swiss have recently played each other both in Olympic qualifiers and at Worlds, and while the Swiss have come out on top both times, they had to take the Czechs to a shootout last Friday. The Swiss have a slight edge in the relegation games, and in their final round-robin win against Germany their offense seemed to come alive, but it’s still winnable for the Czech Republic.
Extended highlights courtesy of the IIHF on vimeo.