The first day of the IIHF Women’s World Championships in Espoo, Finland saw an upset, a walkover, a historic game, and a failed upset.
Germany 2 vs Sweden 1 (SO)
Sweden came into this game the heavy favourites, despite the fact that Germany beat Sweden 4-2 in the European Hockey Tour this season and also beat them 3-1 the last time the two teams met at Worlds. Not only are they ranked higher, the Swedes are faster, more offensively skilled, and have more experience at an elite level.
Still, Jennifer Harss is quite the goalie, and she was on her game with this one. Her defence did a good job of keeping most of Sweden’s 41 shots to the outside, and the Germans also played a much more aggressive style of offense than we saw in 2017.
Sweden dominated possession—it wasn’t a half-ice game but with their speed and faster reaction time they were able to disrupt a lot of the German zone entries.
The first penalty of the game went to Sweden for too many players on the ice, which was a bit of a sign for the rest of the game. They had periods of sloppy play that a better offensive team than Germany could have made them pay for.
There was some 4 on 4 action late in the first and into the second when German forward Marie Delarbre tripped up Sweden’s Lisa Johansson and the refs decided Johansson needed to sit for embellishment.
Overall, Germany looked organized, it was clear they had a plan but Sweden’s faster skating speed and reaction time kept them from fully executing that plan, at least in the offensive zone. At the other end, Sweden was not getting a lot of good chances.
The first Swedish power play came at 7:19 in the second period when Laura Kluge went off for a holding call. There was some sort of issue with the clock that delayed the start, and then the Swedes got a quick shot on Harss right off the draw. As ever, she calmly kept it out of her net.
The German penalty kill stuck pretty tightly to the standard rectangle formation, and worked well for them. The Swedes cycled the puck probably too much trying to find the right lane instead of just putting pucks on net, and the Germans managed to clear the puck a couple of times.
Back at 5 on 5, Melinda Olsson split the German defence and got a shot on goal. Hanna Olsson got the rebound and Harss stopped that too. Sofia Engstrom was right there for lucky shot number three before Harss could recover and it was 1-0 Sweden.
This seemed to energize both teams—the Germans got a zone entry and shot the puck from just past the blue line instead of trying to take it in deeper and risk more Swedish interference. It was also at this point that I really started to notice the crowd, who were numerous and loud. It wasn’t a sellout but the stands were reasonably full.
Josephine Holmgren was called for interference and it took the Swedes less than a minute to regret that. It took the German power play a few seconds to get their act together, they looked rather tentative and had to retreat, but almost as soon as they regained the offensive zone, the puck was in the back of the net. Daria Gleissner sent in an absolute blast from the point that was just tipped in front of the net by Emily Nix to tie the game. Kerstin Spielberger got the secondary assist.
The third period involved a lot less scoring, but had five penalties, including a 5 on 3 opportunity for Germany. One play that was not called a penalty but did look a bit scary was a collision between Andrea Lanzl of Germany and Lisa Johannson of Sweden. It was a complete accident, simply two players not paying enough attention, but Johannson was kneeling on the ice for quite a while and had to be helped off. She did get back in the game and even ended up in the box on one of those five penalties.
With the score tied 1-1, the two teams went to what I believe was the first 3 on 3 overtime in IIHF history — the format was changed for 2018. The open ice should have favoured Sweden but it looked like Germany had actually practised 3 on 3, which makes sense, a team like Germany is going to be hoping for overtime points. Even being down 4 on 3 when Marie Delarbre went off for tripping didn’t shake them.
Five minutes of overtime didn’t solve anything so the game was resolved by way of a shootout. Jenny Harss denied all comers while at the other end Laura Kluge just deked Sara Grahn silly to score the only goal and secure the upset.
Sweden’s goal scorer Sofia Engstrom and German goalie Jennifer Harss, who made 40 saves, were declared players of the game for their respective teams.
gifs for this game are courtesy of WSportHilites
Canada 6 vs Switzerland 0
Each team is missing its best player—Marie-Philip Poulin is dressed but not playing, because this makes sense (although Coach Perry Pearn apparently expects her to get into the lineup this tournament), and Lara Stalder is also not in the lineup for Switzerland.
That Natalie Spooner-Emily Clark-Sarah Nurse line is obviously great from the get-go. Spooner gets Canada’s first good chance, a sharp angle backhand that Emily Clark can’t put in. Later, Clark sends it wide off a Nurse feed.
Nice defensive play by Alina Mueller to force it out of the zone. Mueller is far and away the best skater on the ice for Switzerland, and she creates an impressive amount of trouble for Canada considering she is one woman.
Halfway through the period, Loren Gabel gets her first World Championship goal off a fabulous backhand pass from Brianne Jenner. Gabel just lines it up from the top of the slot and doesn’t miss. Beautiful. 1-0 Canada.
Canada has settled down a lot from the slight chaos of the beginning of the period. They’re getting more stretches of protracted zone time and look a lot more organized.
And then...Natalie fucking Spooner. It’s a very similar play to the Gabel goal, a pass off the wing from Sarah Nurse and Spooner gets the shot off quick, blasting it past Braendli while using Emily Clark and Switzerland’s Isabel Waidacher as a screen. 2-0 Canada.
Braendli makes a tough save on Turnbull right on the doorstep through traffic. There’s a scrambly chance by Daoust right in Braendli’s crease, and Braendli handles it well.
Gabel almost puts in her second but she can’t quite get her stick on it to hit the open net.
Alina Mueller draws a penalty on Renata Fast by charging for the goal and refusing to stop. Technically, it was Laura Stacey who did the tripping, but it’s Fast who’s sent to the box, so, shrug.
Switzerland (mostly Mueller) is actually getting some offensive looks on the PP! I’m proud of them! Unfortunately, the powerplay comes to a premature end when Switzerland takes a too many players penalty. Almost immediately, Mélo Daoust is called for a trip, just to make everything confusing. It ends up as a 4 on 3 for Switzerland, and Canada decides to just hang onto the puck and dance around with it to elapse the last thirty or so seconds in the period.
We start off with a fabulous play by Rebecca Johnston to put it right off Braendli’s pads. Johnston is just unreal.
The penalty is killed off, but it doesn’t take all that long for Mueller to draw another one. She’s one of those players who’s just so talented she forces penalties by existence and determination. Alina Mueller is going to force Canada to defend against her and if she draws a penalty then so be it. Canada kills that one off too; Switzerland is not getting much time in their own zone at all.
There’s a great chance for Canada close in front but Braendli makes the save. She’s doing really well on those scrambly, close-in shots. After another save by Braendli, Jenner tries to feed Jill Saulnier but Saulnier can’t put it in the open net.
There’s a scary-looking collision between Nurse and Daoust, but both of them look okay.
A nice quick shot by Gabel off a great feed during some pressure from Canada (most of this period can be summed up as “pressure from Canada”). Gabel has looked great so far, she’s really using that shot of hers.
Canada is obviously running play but, between Braendli and just desperate shot-blocking defense, the Swiss have been able to keep them from scoring again.
There’s a gorgeous feed by Jamie Lee Rattray to Blayre Turnbull, but Turnbull can’t gain puck control to get a proper shot off. A great shot by Johnston is saved by Braendli and then Fast can’t do anything with the rebound. Canada just can’t put anything in from in close.
Late in the period Evelina Raselli takes a penalty for Switzerland, giving Canada their first full power play. Braendli and the Swiss penalty killers manage to hold them off the scoreboard entirely in the second period.
Switzerland kills off the remainder of the Raselli penalty.
All the Swiss players are just collapsing right into the slot to clog everything up.
Canada finally scores off a loose puck in the crease! Well, technically, it gets knocked in by Braendli, but Emily Clark gets credit for the goal. There’s a long review because Clark ended up pushed into Braendli in the crease, but the goal is eventually ruled good. 3-0 Canada.
Canada is keeping up intense pressure, and the Swiss seem to be getting tired? Maybe it is just that I am tired watching this? I need coffee. The Canadians somehow seem calmer now that they’ve gotten a three-goal cushion, it’s less scrambly pressure and more deliberate pressure.
A good stop by Braendli on Sarah Nurse, and then it cycles out to Jocelyne Larocque at the point. Larocque’s shot is tipped by Emily Clark for her second of the period. 4-0 Canada.
As per usual, you can tell that Canada simply has more time to train and develop their conditioning. They’ve got more endurance. Switzerland looks tired by now.
A Laura Fortino blast from the point, deflected by Rattray, ends up in the back of the net. 5-0 Canada.
Canada is still leaning on the Swiss, who look absolutely gassed by now. It’s fifteen minutes in and they haven’t even put a shot on Szabados. That desperate style of defense they were playing in the second period takes a lot of energy, and they just aren’t able to keep it up.
Alina Mueller goes off with a slashing call, because she is an insanely talented baby who is getting no help from anyone, and that would probably frustrate me too.
Spooner is stopped by Braendli in close on the power play. Score aside, Braendli’s had a really solid performance in net, and should be proud of her senior team debut. She’s done a very good job handling a ridiculous shot volume.
Team Canada isn’t quite done yet. Turnbull tips a Fortino pass past Braendli, a beautiful one-touch redirect. Turnbull was literally standing in the slot with nobody covering her, and Laura Fortino knows how to thread a pass. 6-0 Canada.
That’s where the score stays, and Canada takes their first game of Worlds 6-0. The shot count ended up at 6 for Switzerland, 53 (53!) for Canada. The players of the game are Livia Altmann for Switzerland and Emily Clark for Canada.
Japan 3 vs France 0
France’s historic first ever game at the Top level doesn’t seem to have been broadcast anywhere. Still, we can tell you a fair bit.
Caroline Baldin got the start for France against near-legendary Japanese goaltender Nana Fujimoto, back from surgery on a separated shoulder that was sustained during the 2018 Olympics.
There was no scoring in the first—Japan dominated the offensive play, more than doubling up France 15 to 7 on the shot clock. The first Top division penalty incurred by France was a tripping call on Éloise Jure. The second one was also for tripping, called on captain Marion Allémoz.
In the second period Japan got all the penalties and all the goals, two of each. Rookie Mei Miura opened the scoring, assisted by Rui Ukita, and defender Ayaka Toko added to the tally on a goal that the French seem to credit to the work of Chiho Osawa, who got the assist.
31"45 Le Japon double la mise par l'intermédiaire d'Ayaka Toko qui a profité d'un rebond et d'un gros travail de sa capitaine Chiho Osawa #FRAJPN— Équipes France Hockey (@Hockey_FRA) April 4, 2019
The third period saw a total of five penalties, three to France and two to Japan, and the final Japanese goal, a power play marker by Suzuka Taka, assisted by Shiori Koike.
Total shots were 38 to 24 in favour of Japan. The players of the game were French veteran Betty Jouanny, playing in her 200th game with France, and Japanese forward Rui Ukita, who assisted on the first goal.
Double honneur ce soir pour @BettyJouanny, élue meilleure joueuse du match France-Japon alors qu'elle célébrait sa 200ème sélection #TeamFranceFamily #WeCanBeHeroes #WomensWorlds pic.twitter.com/aTyalzs7dh— Équipes France Hockey (@Hockey_FRA) April 4, 2019
Here are the game highlights courtesy of the IIHF.
USA 6 vs Finland 2
Team Finland’s first game as host of the 2019 Worlds got off to a raucous start. The rink seemed to be almost full, the crowd was very loud, and Finnish head coach Pasi Mustonen was in the home team spirit, turning up on the bench with blue highlights in his hair.
Interesting note: Maddie Rooney was the listed starter for today’s but in reality Alex Rigsby started in net for USA.
The game started off fast with end to end play. The Finns were aggressive and proving they could match Team USA’s speed, but the American defenders kept tangling their sticks before they could get any shots off.
The first power play of the game went to Finland as Kendall Coyne Schofield was called for slashing. The Finnish power play started off strong but they allowed a two on one that Räty had to deal with, and never got back on track. Hilary Knight also got a shorthanded chance before Coyne Schofield was out of the box.
Chances are one thing but goals are what count. Finland scored first as Michelle Karvinen rescued an errant pass from Elisa Holopainen and fed it back to her for the rookie’s first Worlds goal. Fellow rookie Viivi Vainikka got an assist on the play.
The USA roared back but Räty was stopping everything she saw. One of the US players shoved Jenni Hiirikoski onto Räty, which didn’t count for a goal or a penalty but saw the goalie lose her mask and her composure for a few moments.
Play continued end to end until a delayed penalty call against Finland gave the US six attackers and finally Kendall Coyne Schofield sent a quick shot high through traffic to tie the game. 1-1
Petra Nieminen drew a holding call on Megan Bozek in the last minute of the first. The best chance came from Brianna Decker, who got herself a breakaway but was stopped by Räty.
The Finns started the second period on the power play and put the USA under some pressure but the Americans killed off the penalty without incident.
Back at 5 on 5, it looked like the USA had stepped things up, but so had Finland. They exchanged dramatic looking scoring chances and things looked pretty even for a while. The Americans eventually managed to camp out in the Finnish zone to put some sustained pressure on Räty. Trying to break things up, Finnish forward Susanna Tapani ended up with a boarding call.
The first half of the American power play really didn’t look very good. The Finns cleared the puck and managed to deny a zone entry for quite a while. Eventually Decker got a shot off and Räty had to get back to work.
At 5 on 5 Cameranesi had an excellent chance, showing off her stickhandling but Noora just wasn’t letting anything past.
Annie Pankowski was called for a high stick and Finland had their best power play yet. Not only did they look good but Petra Nieminen scored on a delayed penalty call so instead of a 5 on 3 Pankowski came out of the box and Kacey Bellamy went in.
The second consecutive power play looked a bit worse and wasn’t as effective. Back at even strength Räty kept the door shut as the Americans looked for another equalizer. Meanwhile her teammates continued to get chances at the other end of the ice.
The third period started off fast, and it was clear the Finns weren’t content to just have the lead, getting a couple of opportunities early.
Unfortunately for Finland it was USA rookie Melissa Samoskevich who managed to score next, tying the game with a wicked shot.
Hilary Knight gave the Americans their first lead of the game, shooting from down on one knee to beat Räty and put USA up 3-2.
Power play for USA, Riika Sallinen in the box for hooking. Cayla Barnes capitalized with a seeing-eye shot from the point that was tipped in by Alex Carpenter. There was some argument from Finland about either goalie interference or a USA player in the blue paint, but the player was not in the paint, and it was determined there was no interference.
Less than halfway through the third and the Finns were back on their heels with a hell of a hole to climb out of. The USA more or less camped out in the offensive zone looking for more goals.
The Americans had passed the 40 shot mark when Brianna Decker finally got herself a goal. Räty wasn’t the only goalie to face over 40 shots today but in the third period she really wasn’t getting much in the way of help.
With over five minutes left in the game Pasi Mustonen pulled his goalie for the extra attacker. Räty came in and out several times from there on in, including during a Finnish power play with Lee Stecklein in the box for a high stick.
Annie Pankowski continued the third period slaughter, going one on one with Räty and beating her with an angled shot, taking the final score to 6-2.
In the end, the shots on goal were 45 to 23 in favour of the USA, with 20 of their shots coming in the third period. Finland played a good 40, maybe 42 minutes but they just couldn’t keep it up long enough to secure the win.
The first goalscorers for their respective teams, rookie Elisa Holopainen and captain Kendall Coyne Schofield, were named the players of the game.
Tomorrow France takes on the Czech Republic and the Swiss look for redemption against Russia.