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Women’s Hockey Wednesday: France seizes the day

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The Top division has a new team! Plus, Italy moves up, Agidel wins the WHL, and some looks back at the 2017-18 season.

France v Austria - Women's Ice Hockey Olympic Qualification Final - Group D Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Story of the Week

France moves up
Historic rise to top level of WW

In some ways, France’s win was a culmination of years of hard work and steady growth by a team of young women who have conquered the world together on more than one level.

In other ways it was complete and utter luck.

Team France joined Group A of Division I after sweeping the 2013 Division I Group B World Championships. They came in fourth in 2014 and third in 2015. In 2016 they came within one game of winning Group A: tied on points with Germany, they came in second by virtue of the fact that their only loss of the tournament had been against Germany. 2017 saw them win Group E of the Olympic Qualifying rounds, and come third in group D by only one point (again, a loss to Germany, this time in overtime). Clearly, this was a team on the rise.

Unfortunately, whether due to having played their hearts out in two tournaments already that season or just straight up bad luck, the 2017 Worlds were a disaster for France. They lost every game, and only scored one goal (Lara Escudero, assisted by Clara Rozier, against Austria). In any other year that would have seen them relegated back to Group B. But they got lucky. In 2017, the IIHF announced that the Top level for women’s ice hockey would expand by two teams in time for the 2019 World Championships. In practical terms, this meant that no teams were relegated in 2017.

Not only did France not get relegated in 2017, the IIHF changes meant that no one got relegated from the Top level down to Division I either. Denmark, Norway and Austria have been perpetual members of Group A for longer than France has been in the group. Since 2013, when Japan moved into the Top Division, the winner of Division I Group A has continually been the team that was relegated from the Top level the year before. That’s not to say that France couldn’t have won Group A this year anyway — they got awfully close in 2016 — but without a recent Top level team in their way, the path was a little easier.

Another piece of luck, or perhaps just interesting coincidence, is that every recent major win for Team France has been at home. The 2013 Group B World Championships, 2017 Group E Olympic Qualifiers, and this year’s Group A World Championships have all taken place in France.

The inspiring power of French fans notwithstanding, France only has 2500 registered women’s players, so it’s not a surprise to see several players on their team have chosen to further their development in North America. Nineteen-year-old Northeastern University commit Chloé Aurard and the Université de Montréal’s Estelle Duvin were two major contributors for France. Both had five points, Aurard with four goals and an assist, Duvin with three goals and two assists. A quick perusal of the roster will show an immediate theme—along with Duvin, Emmanuelle Passard and Jade Vix are currently playing for UdeM, while team captain Marion Allemoz and her fellow Montréal Canadienne, Lore Baudrit, both spent time there. It’s convenient for France’s national team that Canada has Francophone schools with great hockey programs; the language barrier can be a problem for non-native-English-speakers in the NCAA, who have to reach a level of fluency that lets them keep up grades in an American university.

13 of the 22 players on this year’s senior team were also on the team in 2013 when they advanced from Group B. Their results at the 2017 Worlds mostly show what many smart coaches have told us — progression isn’t always linear. Team France got some help from luck and/or excellent timing but it’s clear that skill and hard work were what helped them seize the opportunity to advance.

International

DeRocco delights!
WWIB: Italian scores only goal for promotion

Update: Yes, the home team also won in Division I B. South Korea came very close to winning the group in their first year in Division I, while China couldn’t maintain their winning pace from the beginning of the tournament and ended up in fifth place.

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Profile of Hungarian national team and Russian WHL player Fanni Gasparics.

Marion Allemoz and Lore Baudrit with Team France - Les Canadiennes de Montreal

Meghan Duggan on her playoff TV role, the Bruins, and what's next for USA hockey

NWHL

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The 2017-18 NWHL season had it all for the Metropolitan Riveters. They finished the season with 13 wins & captured the Isobel Cup Championship..

NWHL: Buffalo Beauts Season Review
The Buffalo Beauts won a record 12 games in the 2017-18 NWHL season and reached the Isobel Cup for the third straight year.

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A young Connecticut Whale team finished last in the standings, but the future looks bright

NWHL 2017-18 Season Recap: Boston Pride - The Ice Garden
The Pride stumbled out of the gate, but ended up just one goal away from the Isobel Cup Final.

CWHL

CWHL: Season Review and a Look Ahead
Kirsten Whelan puts together a good summary of the 2017-18 season and highlights some important issues going forward.

A Cape Bretoner grows the game in China | Hockey | Sports | Cape Breton Post
Baddeck's Jessica Wong comes out of retirement to skate for CWHL’s Red Star

Digit Murphy Is The American Woman With The Business Plan For China's Ice Hockey Dream
“Men are only going to run sports the way that men know how to run them. There’s a whole other growth mindset out there that women know and men don’t. ”

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Räty can survive and thrive on the ice, but can she survive the Philippines?

NCAA

Northeastern and Clarkson will face off in Belfast next January - The Ice Garden
The NCAA will send Clarkson and Northeastern to Northern Ireland for the first time in the history of the sport

BC Women’s Hockey Forward Rachel Moore Will Transfer To Holy Cross - BC Interruption
The sophomore looks likely to get more playing time with the new D1 program

College women's hockey: Fame hasn't changed Bulldogs' Rooney | Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota Duluth goaltender and Olympic gold medalist Maddie Rooney says she's not a superstar, even after stopping 29 shots and making two dramatic stops in Team USA's 3-2 shootout win over Canada in the final in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Rensselaer removes interim tag, names Vines women's head coach | College Hockey | USCHO.com
After serving as interim head coach during the 2017-18 season, Rensselaer announced Tuesday that the school has named Bryan Vines the new head women's coach (photo: Tom Killips).

North Country reps back state resolution honoring Clarkson women's hockey team | NorthCountryNow
The New York State Assembly passed a resolution this week, sponsored by Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, honoring the Clarkson's University women's hockey team for winning the NCAA Division I championship last month in Minnesota.

Vinkle to captain NCAA champs - Quinte News
Last season Cassidy Vinkle wore an “A” with the two time NCAA women’s hockey champion Clarkson University Golden Knights. Next season the Belleville native will wear the “C”.

European club hockey

SDHL (Sweden) Better Together: Swedish Players Unionize - The Ice Garden
The Damkronorna organize, for themselves and for those who will come after.

Cava, Tougas return to MODO Hockey - The Ice Garden
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WHL (Russia) Agidel! | CONWAY'S RUSSIAN HOCKEY BLOG
For the first time ever, Agidel Ufa are champions of Russian women's hockey!

Agidel Ufa Triumphs in Russia - The Ice Garden
The side from Bashkortostan go 5-0 in the playoffs to become the first Russian champions since 2000 besides SKIF and Tornado.

SWHL (Switzerland) Andrea Odermatt returns to the ZSC Lions, Irene Heise arrives from Berlin - swisshockeynews.ch
The ZSC Lions Women's team has announced that they have signed forward Andrea Odermatt (photo) and German defender Irene Heise for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Photography

Michelle Jay’s top shots of 2017-18 season - The Ice Garden
The top shots frozen in time by Michelle

Al Saniuk’s top shots of 2017-2018 - The Ice Garden
The top shots frozen in time by Al

Pat McCarthy’s top shots of 2017-18 season - The Ice Garden
The top shots frozen in time by Pat