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Women’s Hockey Wednesday: It all comes down to this

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South Korea has been preparing for years, China has just started their journey — there’s a lot on the line at the Division I B World Championships this week.

Kunlun Red Star's Yu Baiwei and Wang Yuqing during a KRS home game in the 2017-18 season Visual China / CWHL

Story of the Week

After Year One In The CWHL, China Takes On The World
Ask anyone around the Chinese national women's program, and they will tell you that the structure put in place this past season -- with teams in the CWHL and the Eastern Women's Hockey Conference -- is part of a five-year plan, and that it is going to take all five of those years to truly see the results.

Considering the media buzz around Chinese women’s hockey since the CWHL dropped the bombshell of a CWHL-China partnership last summer, you’d think every angle must have been thoroughly covered by now. Kirsten Whelan proves that wrong with her article for Victory Press that sets up the Division I Group B Women’s World Championships in Asiago, Italy through an informative look at Team China, its relationship with the CWHL, and the beginnings of its five year plan.

As Whelan states, this week’s tournament is a much better indication of where Team China stands now, playing as a unit. Last year they ended the tournament in fourth place, with two regulation wins against Kazakhstan and Poland and an overtime win against Italy for a total of eight points.

Also interesting to look at is the contrast between South Korea, who were playing in the Olympics less than two months ago, and China. It’s not entirely a fair comparison, since China has consistently ranked higher than South Korea, who are playing their first tournament in the Div I B group this year. Four years ago, South Korea was playing their first tournament in the Div II Group A level. China’s aspirations to reach the top level on merit are more realistic than South Korea’s were at the beginning of their journey. For having just climbed up a level, South Korea has done well so far, with an overtime win over Kazakhstan and a close-fought loss to China, sitting them in fourth place for the moment. Still, this is the culmination of a different five year plan and further investment in South Korean women’s hockey could hinge on how well they do in this tournament while the spotlight continues to linger.

While the tournament has only recently gotten underway, China’s got to be feeling good about their progress. They opened the tournament with a convincing 4-0 victory over Poland, and then edged past newly promoted South Korea 2-1. Fang Xin, who was the highest-scoring Chinese-born player in the CWHL last season, is leading the tournament in goals with three in two games. You can see her game-winning goal against Korea in the embedded gif, off a nice spinning pass by fellow Vanke Rays teammate Kong Minghui.

Fang was also named Player of the Game in China’s victory over Poland (two goals helps with that!); on Sunday vs. Korea, the honor went to goalie Wang Yuqing, who has only allowed one goal so far and whose .977 sv% currently leads the tournament. It’s impossible to draw definitive conclusions two games in, but as one of the two undefeated teams left (home team Italy has scored nine goals and beaten both Latvia and Kazakhstan soundly), all current signs are positive.

Their next game is today against Latvia (it should be underway as this article is published), and the IIHF is streaming it, and all the other games in this tournament, live if you’re so inclined. If you’re unable to watch, or highlights are all you can handle, follow @WSportHilites on twitter — they’ve been providing excellent gifs throughout the Worlds tournaments at all levels.

Of course the other tournament going on right now should also be of interest to women’s hockey fans, if only because the winner of the Division I Group A Women’s World Championships will move up to the Top level and compete in Finland in 2019 against USA, Canada, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Japan. The favourite is Austria (featuring Boston Pride’s Janine Weber), but Canadiennes fans will also recognize French captain Marion Allemoz and forward Lore Baudrit.

After two games, the themes are close scores and upsets. The opening day of competition saw newly promoted Slovakia take down last year’s runner-up Austria by a score of 3-2. In fact every game on the opening day resulted in an upset. Things returned to normal on day two, but that does mean that every team in the tournament has one regulation win so far. Definitely a tournament worth keeping an eye on.

The IIHF is not providing a video stream but you can see scores and live stats on their website.

International hockey

World Championships Div I A

Allemoz Les Bleues!
French captain glad to host Division I Group A

World Championships Div I B

Window to the west
European play offers Kazakhstan edge

S. Korea opens women's hockey worlds with OT win over Kazakhstan
South Korea has opened the women's world ice hockey championship with an overtime victory over Kazakhstan.

S. Korea falls to China in women's hockey worlds
South Korea has suffered its first loss at the women's world hockey championship in Italy.

World Championships Div II A

Dutch delight in Maribor
Impressive Netherlands cruise to gold

Kim going for World Championship gold - Peterborough Telegraph
Kim Lane is going for gold when representing the Great Britain Women’s squad on the World Championships stage in the coming days.

PHOTO SPECIAL AS GB WOMEN RECORD A FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN – IHUK
Getty does not appear to have sent photographers to any of the women’s worlds this year, so here have some photos courtesy of team GB.

Team USA

Blades of Glory: Amanda Kessel – Athletes Quarterly
The gold medal-winning star of the US women’s hockey team on becoming an instant celebrity, making her brothers cry, and why she hides her ponytail for games.

CWHL

Playing Hockey as Who I was Meant to Be: Jessica Platt
We caught up with Jessica Platt to discuss inclusivity in sports and what she wants people to know about transgender rights.

Oshawa's Nicole Brown notches key goal for Markham Thunder in Clarkson Cup victory | DurhamRegion.com
When Nicole Brown started skating at age four in the Oshawa Church Hockey League, she sure wasn’t envisioning the day she would win a Canadian Women's Hockey League championship

Howe and Knox: Hockey’s Best Goalie Duo - The Ice Garden
Mike looks at Howe and Knox’s numbers.

NWHL

The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica Ayala, April 6, 2018
Inaccurate information is bad for the sport and no information makes you wonder if we even have a sport at all.

Mock NWHL Expansion Draft, Just for Fun
THW takes a completely hypothetical look at what a mock NWHL expansion draft could look like. Just for fun.

Beauts bask in memorable year | lockportjournal.com
BUFFALO — It took an all-world effort from Metropolitan goalie Katie Fitzgerald to keep the Buffalo Beauts from repeating as Isobel Cup champions.

Connecticut Whale's Faber Talks About the Forward Position for Kids
A legendary forward in women's hockey, the Connecticut Whale's captain Sam Faber took the time to share with THW some advice and guidance for young hockey players who have taken up the forward position.

Boston Pride's Paige Harrington Talks Hockey for Taller Kids
One of the tallest players in the NWHL, the Boston Pride's Paige Harrington spoke with THW about growing up, how being a taller player has many advantages but also some challenges too, and some tips for our younger hockey players who may be of greater height as well.

NCAA

REPORT: Minnesota Women’s Hockey Forward Lindsay Agnew Will Transfer To Boston College - BC Interruption
The sophomore will be eligible to play immediately

Calumet native Chelsea Jacques overcomes injury to play in Frozen Four | News, Sports, Jobs - The Mining Gazette
For Calumet native Chelsea Jacques, a trip to the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four championship game was an amazing experience. What she personally went through to get there says a lot about the makeup of the third-year defenseman on the Colgate Raiders.

The Rise of Colgate Women’s Ice Hockey - Colgate Maroon-News: Colgate Sports
The women’s ice hockey team had a historic season, most notably as an NCAA finalist and ending the season with a record of 34-6-1. The highlight of the team’s season was arguably during NCAA tournament play and its two games during the Frozen Four.

Season in Review: 2017-18 BC Women's Hockey - The Heights
Despite ending the season with back-to-back losses in the Hockey East quarterfinals and the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Boston College women's hockey still finished with one of it's best records in program history and had plenty of success and accolades earned.

Wisconsin Badgers lead country in women's hockey in attendance in 2017-18, but ticket usage drops | Wisconsin Badgers Hockey | host.madison.com
In 2017-18, 31 percent of tickets went unused for Badgers women's hockey home games, a rate higher than the previous two seasons.

Peters Receives Hockey Humanitarian Award :: University of Minnesota :: Official Athletic Site
The Official Athletic Site of the University of Minnesota - Minnesota senior goaltender Sidney Peters has been selected as the 2018 Hockey Humanitarian Award recipient.

Women’s hockey coach Dave Flint reflects on historic season – The Huntington News

U Sports

Reflecting on the golden weekend | The Manitoban
The Bisons went on to become national champions, and I was there for every single moment.

European league hockey

WHL (Russia) Russian women’s playoff preview: Will the duopoly end? - The Ice Garden
Entering the first-ever Russian women’s playoff, Agidel Ufa stands in a solid position to take the title. But the road will go through the two clubs that have won titles.

Women’s Hockey Update: April 3rd, 2018 | CONWAY'S RUSSIAN HOCKEY BLOG
There was a great deal of excitement in the Women's Hockey League this past week, as the regular season neared its end and the playoff picture clarified itself.

Women’s Hockey League Playoff Preview! | CONWAY'S RUSSIAN HOCKEY BLOG
The 2017-18 Women's Hockey League regular season came to an end this past week with a couple of two-game sets

SDHL (Sweden) Luleå HF Win SDHL Championship - The Ice Garden
Gold returns to Norrbotten as Luleå HF takes the SDHL title.

Q & A With Michelle Karvinen - The Ice Garden
Michelle Karvinen’s hockey journey has taken her from her birthplace in Denmark to Finland, to the United States, and most recently to Sweden, where she’s played with the SDHL’s Luleå HF

SWHL (Switzerland) ZSC's Angela Taylor and Katrin Nabholz retire from hockey - swisshockeynews.ch
Angela Taylor and Katrin Nabholz have decided to hang up the skates. They will thus no longer be part of the ZSC Lions' women's team.

Neuchâtel's Ophélie Ryser joins the HC Lugano Ladies Team - swisshockeynews.ch
The Neuchâtel Hockey Academy loses their captain Ophélie Ryser.

ZSC Lions' women's team announces several departures - swisshockeynews.ch
The ZSC Lions' women's team just won the national championship. Now, they also had to announce the departure of four players.