Day three in Espoo featured another upset, another shutout and two very close games.
The IIHF has video highlights up for each game.
Czech Republic 5 vs Sweden 3
Klára Peslarová and Sara Grahn each got their second starts of the tournament, for Peslarová the second start in less than 24 hours.
The two teams started slowly, feeling each other our a bit, but it wasn’t long before Sweden was dominating possession and zone time.
Five minutes in, Sweden had the first power play as Aneta Lédlová went to the box for tripping. The Czech penalty kill was aggressive, with multiple defenders harassing the Swedes in their own zone. Of course this left some openings, as Erika Grahm demonstrated by going one on one with Peslarová from the right side while all the Czech players were on the left.
In the end, it was a hell of an angle shot by Hanna Olsson that beat Peslarová, going top shelf. As with Grahm’s opportunity there was no one in Olsson’s way. 1-0 Sweden, Jessica Adolfsson and Fanny Rask were credited with the assists.
At the halfway mark of the period there was a bit of a scramble in front of Grahn but she covered the puck and settled things down. Unfortunately for her it didn’t get the Czechs out of her zone. A chaotic faceoff led to multiple players falling on the dot. 17 year old rookie Natálie Mlýnková stayed upright, spotted the puck and sent it towards the net before Grahn was ready for it to tie the game. Assist to Klára Hymlárová.
Sweden continued to dominate the length of the ice. They were comfortable enough to take the puck back into the neutral zone or even their defensive zone if to re-set if they didn’t like how things were going in the offensive zone.
Captain Emma Nordin put Sweden ahead again with a strange little shot from below the goal line. A Fanny Rask shot rebounded at an angle, Nordin caught it and just slid the puck along the line behind Peslarová where it nudged the far post and went in to make it 2-1 Sweden with five and a half minutes left in the period. Pernilla Winberg was credited with an assist. I wasn’t expecting this to be a high-scoring game but it started to look like it might be.
The game started getting more physical, with contact happening along the boards, although nothing was getting called. My eye test suggested things were evening up but the shot clock still heavily favoured Sweden.
A hooking call against Denisa Křížová gave Sweden another power play with just over two minutes left. This time the Czech penalty killers were calmer more disciplined. About halfway through they managed to clear the puck and keep the Swedes out until the final seconds of the power play.
The pace picked up in the second period, as did the penalties.
The first Swedish penalty went to Johanna Olofsson for hooking just 93 seconds inlto the period. Sweden controlled play for most of the penalty but Russia did get a few shots in on Grahn.
Nordin and Melinda Olsson both had good chances to score as Sweden continued to dominate play but Peslarová kept the door shut.
6:47 into the first, Pavlína Horálková went down against the boards and Isabell Palm was sent to the box for body checking.
The Czech power play started with an opportunity out in front for Michaela Pejzlová but Grahn saw it all the way. It was generally a better power play for the Czech team, who kept control for the majority of the time. It looked like Mlýnková beat Grahn at the side of the net for her second goal of the game, but the goal went to Hymlárová instead. 2-2, assists to Aneta Tejralová and Tereza Vanišová.
The Czechs continued to get offensive zone time, showing off some crisp passing.
The third Swedish penalty kill of the game came when Hymlárová and Sofia Engström collided against the boards, behind the Swedish net. The refs decided to call it tripping. It was generally not the best power play for Team Czech. Play with a high stick gave Sweden an offensive zone faceoff and shortly afterwards the puck landed in the benches.
However, in the dying seconds of the power play Simona Studentová fed incoming Vendula Přibylová cross-ice and she sent a laser past Grahn for the first Czech lead of the game, 3-2. Secondary assist to Kateřina Mrázová. Sweden needs to stay out of the box if they want their first win of the tournament.
Mrázová drew a roughing call on Josephine Holmgren with four seconds left in the period, so the third started with another Czech power play. They had a few good chances but Grahn kept everything out of the net.
Still the Czechs kept the pressure on and quickly drew another power play. Vanišová went down and Nordin was called for holding. This time the power play looked sort of chaotic and took a while to set up. Grahn had to be good, but Sweden survived.
Noemi Neubauerová was the next player to the box. The Swedish power play looked impressive for a while and then Maja Nylén Persson lost control of a pass at the blue line and they had to reset. The penalty expired with no damage done.
Mrázová collided with Adolfsson going for a rebound, but there was no call on the play.
It became apparent that Sweden was in real trouble when Denisa Křížová grabbed a puck off an offensive zone faceoff and roofed it over Grahn in a play very similar to the first Czech goal. 4-2, with an assist to Mrázová and only half a period left to go.
The Swedes responded with pressure and had a few close calls but whatever Peslarová didn’t have hit a post or missed the net.
Sara Grahn was pulled with over four minutes left in the game. Mlýnková tried for a hat trick on the empty net but her shot was redirected by a Swedish defender.
With 2:04 left to go Erica Grahm redirected Emma Nordin’s point shot past Peslarová to make it 4-3 and give Sweden some hope. The goal was reviewed, possibly for whether Grahm was in the paint, but it stood.
Unfortunately for Sweden, Tereza Vanišová scored an empty netter with 15 seconds left in the game. Grahn came back in for the last few seconds but the damage was done.
The players of the game were Melinda Olsson for Sweden and Klára Hymlárová for the Czech Republic.
Despite being up early and dominating play in the first to the tune of 13 shots to three, Sweden let the game get away from them and in the end the Czechs outshot them 28 to 25. Sweden now finds themselves in a relegation spot with two games to play and the question becomes, can they beat Japan? Fujimoto beat them at the Olympics with a separated shoulder, and she’s healthy now.
Finland 4 vs Russia 0
I was surprised to see 19 year old rookie Valeria Merkusheva get the net for this game against Finland, but partly because I’m not used to the new format: everyone gets a quarter-final berth in Group A and being third doesn’t necessarily get you a weaker opponent than being fourth. Merkusheva took the Russian U-18 team to a surprise bronze in 2017, and I guess putting her in against Finland is better than against Canada or the USA. Regardless, Noora Räty was at the other end for Finland.
Early on it looked like this game was going to be a battle.
Nelli Laitinen was called for holding in the first minute. Finland’s penalty kill got some looks in on Merkusheva shorthanded before Russia really got going. Once the Russians were set up it was a lot of attempts at slapshots from the point, mostly from Olga Sosina, and that’s not usually a winning strategy against Räty.
Possession moved back and forth but Merkusheva wasn’t getting many visitors and Räty was busy.
That changed quickly when Finland got an offensive zone faceoff. Merushkeva handled a quick shot right off the faceoff but Finland kept possession and stayed in the zone. Petra Nieminen dug a puck out from the corner, Merushkeva came out a little too far to challenge and Nieminen shot over her shoulder for a top corner goal. Noora Tulus had the assist.
Play started to even up, with Finland getting more chances.
The first Russian penalty was a hooking call against Diana Kanayeva for hooking. The Finns got a couple of looks in but a combination of decent defence from Russia and a few problems of Finland’s own making kept them from scoring.
With three minutes left in the period Isa Rahunen of Finland went off for holding. Again the Russian power play went for a couple of point shots. Meanwhile Finland had some Shorthanded chances including one from Susanna Tapani who lost control and not only missed her shot but crashed into Merkusheva for an interference call. This resulted in 23 seconds of 5 on 3 for Russia and Merkusheva had to go for a long skate to settle down.
Räty made an excellent clear right down to the Russian blue line to kill off most of those seconds. She did it again as the period ran out, letting her team end the first in the Russian zone.
Russia started the second with 37 seconds of power play time.
An early chance by Niemenen almost landed her on top of the goalie but she avoided both the goalie and the penalty her teammate earned in the first.
Yelena Dergachyova does battle with a Finnish defender but can’t control her shot and Räty saves it easily.
Play in this period seemed a little looser for both teams, with more end to end play.
Petra Nieminen kept getting chances, looking very dangerous. Fortunately for Russia Merkusheva kept looking better as the period went on, robbing Nieminen more than once.
Five minutes into the period started a sequence of Russian penalties. Oxana Bratisheva was called for tripping, Team Russia killed that off.
Anna Savonina went off for hooking. The Finnish power play did a lot of cycling and battling along the boards, not a lot got to through. Tanya Niskanen was hauled down on her way to the net with seconds left in the penalty and Liana Ganeyeva was sent to the box. Merkusheva showed off a nice glove save, probably while hoping her team would score for once, or at least get some offensive zone time.
With three an a half minutes left Maria Batalova took a penalty for bodychecking. Not Helpful. The Finnish power play was starting to look frustrated as Merkusheva stopped everything. One chance went along the goal mouth and out while she was down on the ice but that was as close as they came.
Batalova stole the puck coming out of the box and went one on one with Noora Räty, who made the save look easy.
Viivi Vainikka tried to shovel a puck over Merkusheva’s glove and she was having none of it. It was looking like one goal was all Finland was going to get.
Then came the third period.
Russia started to press more but they were beginning to look tired and were giving up chances. Merkusheva denied another Nieminen breakaway.
Viivi Vainikka had a chance denied but Sanni Hakala picked up the rebound and continued to bang at Merkusheva’s pads until ultimately she seemed to kick it the rest of the way herself. The goal was reviewed possibly for interference but it was declared a good goal and Elisa Holopainen picked up a secondary assist.
Finland was getting more breakaways and odd skater rushes and it started paying off.
Vainikka was in the right spot at the right time as Hakala chased a puck into the corner and fed it across the ice to Vainikka on the opposite side. She snapped it past Merushkeva to put Finland up 3-0. Russia called their time out—there was still more than half a period left.
Holopainen came into the zone with Vainikka and Merushkeva bit just a little too early. Vainikka passed to Holopainen in the slot and she scored Finland’s fourth goal, ending Merushkeva’s day. A shame, it really wasn’t Merushkeva’s fault. Anna Prugova came in in relief.
Rosa Lindstedt was called for interference with 7:06 left in the game, giving the Russians their first power play since the beginning of the second period. They didn’t look very organized and weren’t spending a lot of time trying to take eyes away from Räty. The best that can be said was they didn’t give up any shorthanded opportunities and managed to stay in the Finnish zone for over a minute after the penalty expired.
And that was basically it for the game. Shots were 37 to 18, over 30 of them faced by Merushkeva. Players of the game were Olga Sosina for Russia and Elisa Holopainen for Finland.
A few things to note for Finland—with how high the level of play is looking in Group B, getting third spot in Group A and facing the Group B winner could be the recipe for an upset, so they’re going to be extra motivated in the next two games to try and move up into second. Also, three of the goal scorers and almost all of the players with assists in this game are under 20 and that says good things about the future of the Finnish game.
Germany 3 vs Japan 2
Japan vs Germany should be the goalie duel between Nana Fujimoto and Jennifer Harss.
After some opening stumbles, Germany gets a sustained cycle going on Japan but isn’t getting a lot of shots. Japan grabs a turnover and Germany immediately shows their advantage in physicality by taking the puck back through sheer power.
Japan answers back with a cycle of their own, and they sure like to get a lot tighter to the net than Germany do.
Laura Kluge stands out for Germany as a big player who uses her size well and will drive up the slot for scoring chances.
Early in the game, Germany is winning every board battle, and Japan cannot stay in the offensive zone long, but the Germans aren’t transitioning to offence well. I’m not sure they can defend their way to a win against such a good goalie as Fujimoto.
Japan’s top unit finally gets some serious zone time and some shots on goal, and it’s begun by a good zone exit from 1RD, Akane Hosoyamada. She’s mobile, carries the puck well, but hugs the blueline offensively.
Why are they playing Big in Japan in the arena?
Japan’s top line C, Haruna Yoneyama sits for holding after a scrum along the boards, and Germany has a power play.
Julia Zorn, playing at the left point passes over to defender Anna Fiegert on the right point, and she lets loose a long bomb that finds the back of the net.
Germany follows up the goal with a long stretch of puck control with no offence as the end result. They simply can’t get through the neutral zone and over the blueline.
The German fourth line takes a turn at blocking all shots, but never exiting the zone, and Harss has to make a glove save, which is about the most active she’s been in some time.
Japan keeps the Germans hemmed in off the faceoff, but they aren’t generating any scoring chances.
Emily Nix takes a tripping call with thirty seconds left, so Japan will open the second with a power play.
Period one was not a goalie duel. The Germans dominated in their own zone, the Japanese in the neutral zone, and the visits to the Japanese zone were rare. No one had good scoring chances, and the goalies had it easy. Shots on goal were seven to five for Japan, but Germany had the puck most of the time.
It’s tough to make much of a power play split over two periods, but Japan wins control of the puck every time Harss freezes it. They don’t get much that looks dangerous. Maybe they should try a long bomb.
Germany comes back with a shot, and Fujimoto gives up a juicy rebound, but the Germans were on a change.
Germany’s shot blocking fails them and Harss has to make a save. Early in the second, the pace of the game has picked up.
These two teams are ably illustrating that defence is not just one singular concept. They are both smothering the weak offence of their opponents, but doing it with completely different skillsets. Japan’s super-slick zone exit, zone entry denial and neutral zone trapping should give them a major edge, but the power game and puck control of the Germans just shuts them down.
Sena Suzuki, another modern, mobile defender, is outstanding for the Japanese, but she’s not finding anyone to pass to who can score.
Into the second half of the second period, and Japan is pouring on pressure that has Harss scrambling a little. I haven’t seen Fujimoto in a while.
Germany is losing the plot. Remi Koyama lifts the puck off a German player who is not sure what to do with it along the boards and gets a scoring chance. Too much of that, and this game will be tied up.
Germany accidentally dumps and chases when the puck just skids of the German puck-carrier’s stick, and they end up with a mini-cycle. Maybe, dare I say it, they should deal with that perfect Japanese gap control the old fashioned way?
Japan has definitely found the key to overcoming the German defence — rapid passing and quick shots. They get a flurry of chances, but Harss is carrying the team through the second half of the period.
Germany are so far back on their heels as the second period winds down, they look like they just want to PK their way to the finish.
Germany gets the late power play this time as Ayaka Toko goes off for interference, and the Germans can’t even gain the zone. They’ll have a minute left to open the third.
Japan piled on the shots, particularly late in the second, and now lead 29 to 7. Germany had two shots on goal in that period.
Germany spend their truncated power play with passing practice and finally manage one scoring attempt.
As the game rolls on, the Germans have found their puck control game again, and they’re taking the puck away from Japan and actually getting a little tepid-looking offensive pressure going.
Japan takes a penalty for hooking, and Germany get another power play.
Almost immediately Celina Haider scores to make it 2-0. Assists to Laura Kluge and Anna Fiegert.
Japan is not to be denied, and they come right back with a goal from the captain, Chiho Osawa from Suzuka Taka and Moeko Fujimoto. The scrum it came from was started by those mobile defenders who move the puck over the line and in deep with ease.
And now this is a game! Japan scores again. Harss had been so perfect when she needed to be, and now it’s all fallen apart.
The second goal in another heavy offensive scrum full of rapid passes is from Hanae Kubo with the assist to Haruka Toko.
Suddenly the game with no offence is tied at two all after three goals in under two minutes.
Japan takes another penalty, Akane Hosoyamada for interference. Every scrum along the boards puts a Japanese player in the box, but Germany gets no joy from this power play.
Germany are controlling the play and throwing everything at the net, shot after shot that Fujimoto has easily, but just like when Japan was running up the shot clock, eventually one goes in.
Marie Delarbre scores from Julia Zorn and Kerstin Spielberger.
With three minutes left, and a 3-2 lead, it’s again up to the Germans to hold this lead.
With 30 seconds left, the German hero, Delarbre takes a slashing penalty, and the Germans take their timeout.
With the faceoff in the German zone, and Fujimoto pulled, the Japanese have a real chance to tie it up. They press, but Germany clears the zone with a second left, and they take the win.
Shots on goal finished up at 41-18 for Japan, but the game didn’t look that lopsided barring the second half of the second period.
Parity has come to group B, and it’s exciting. Japan is so good at positional hockey, all they need is a little bit of scoring talent, and they will leap up the ranks. Germany needs speed. They need to skate faster, make quicker decisions with the puck and shoot more.
Harss gets player of the game for Germany. Osawa wins for Japan.
And they can’t get the anthem to play. The PA blares out a second of a dance song, and the Germans start to move.
Ah, here we go. The team is singing it, led by a man somewhere in the crowd with a good voice. An embarrassing moment is saved. Spectator count is listed at 134 watchers and one good singer.
USA 3 vs Canada 2
For the latest edition of the Canada - USA rivalry the coaches elected to go with the goalie matchup we last saw in the Clarkson Cup Final just two weeks ago: Emerance Maschmeyer in Canada’s net and Alex Rigsby starting for USA.
One interesting change was rookie Jessie Compher centring Dani Cameranesi and Hilary Knight and Hannah Brandt scratched. Brianne Jenner got the gold helmet today for her 100th game.
The game started out as an end to end battle. An Annie Pankowski chance was answered by an opportunity for Loren Gabel at the other end.
The US opened the scoring as Knight and Cameranesi came in on a 2 on 1. Cameranesi fed Knight and Knight found space on the far side of the net to beat Maschmeyer and put the Americans up 1-0.
Compher went to the box on an interference call just under five minutes into the game and the Canadian power play went to work. It took to the last seconds but a Jenner shot from the point got to the net and Sarah Nurse made a heroic dive to push it past Rigsby while Natalie Spooner took away the goalie’s eyes. One-all, with a secondary assist to Brigette Lacquette.
Beautiful glove save by Maschmeyer on a shot by Hayley Scamurra as the US continued to gain the offensive zone.
Micah Zandee-Hart took out Emily Pfalzer and Canada went to the penalty kill. Maschmeyer had to make a few quick saves before Canada got properly organized. Sarah Nurse lost her stick but no harm was done and the penalty expired with Canada headed to the US zone.
A lot of commentary on sloppy play for both teams, particularly missed passes and the possible effect of the Olympic-sized ice. Maschmeyer certainly looked busier than Rigsby in the first.
A Team USA player took Maschmeyer out after a shoulder save but there was no whistle and the puck headed back to the neutral zone.
Ann Sophie Bettez had an excellent chance at her first goal but Rigsby had the save and Jenner wasn’t quite in position for the rebound.
Zandee-Hart blew a tire and Kendall Coyne Schofield took advantage of the loose puck and her speed to zoom in and beat Maschmeyer with a backhand unassisted. 2-1 USA, 90 seconds left in the period.
Loren Gabel fired off a shot to force Rigsby to make a save as the buzzer sounded to end the first.
Some early time in the Canadian zone ended with Hilary Knight on top of a Canadian and you can’t do that so it was time for another US penalty kill. It didn’t take long for Canada to capitalize. Lacquette sent a wrister in from the blueline just redirected enough by Jenner to beat Rigsby and tie the game. Sarah Nurse got her second point of the game with the secondary assist.
Another USA penalty, this time to rookie Sydney Brodt for tripping. Sadly, Canada couldn’t make it 3 for 3 on the power play.
A penalty to Canada was quite delayed as the US rudely refused to give up possession. Eventually the whistle went and Mélodie Daoust was off to the box for tripping. There was a nervous moment as the penalty killers took away Maschmeyer’s eyes but she found the puck and kept it out.
The Americans were getting a lot of rushes but Canada was getting a fair number of chances.
Cayla Barnes was the next player to the penalty box, this time on a retaliatory slash. USA started by getting the puck out a few times, Canada had real trouble setting up. Lacquette got the only shot of the power play, another blueline shot, much harder this time, but it stayed out.
Play started getting more physical and while the officials had been calling a lot of stick plays they seemed content to let hits go. Mélodie Daoust sent a laser on net, but Rigsby had it.
Canada’s turn on the kill, this time it was Emily Clark in the box with a tripping call. A point shot by Annie Pankowski beat Maschmeyer in no time at all and the US were back in the lead yet again. Barnes was credited with the assist.
With a little over two minutes to go in the period a delayed penalty call against the US saw Bettez with another chance on Rigsby, but Rigsby hung on and the Canadian power play began.
Daoust put in a nice shot on net but it hit an American defender instead of the net. Blayre Turnbull put one into the netting. Erin Ambrose fired one high, another shot went off the post and the second period expired with six seconds left in the power play.
The final frame began with a number of intercepted passes for both teams and a chance in front of Rigsby for Canada.
Renata Fast was called for yet another tripping penalty. Erin Ambrose had a nice block and cleared the puck deep. Maschmeyer had to swim to keep a couple of chances out and made a great glove save on Alex Carpenter.
As the halfway mark approached Canada had not much in the way of dedicated time in the offensive zone.
The US got another power play on a high sticking call against Jillian Saulnier. Laura Stacey got the puck out for a while. Maschmeyer had to deal with another Pankowski shot. The penalty killers tried to spring Saulnier as she came out of the box but she put herself just offside, earning a whistle instead of a breakaway.
Jesse Compher had an opportunity for USA but sent it over the net.
Blayre Turnbull went down and the officials decided it was Knight’s fault so Canada was back on the power play. They started well but the Americans cleared it a couple of times and Carpenter made some trouble in the offensive zone. A missed pass at the end of the power play lost Canada the zone.
Jenner got a nice shot on Rigsby, but was denied. A shot from Laura Fortino came close but not close enough.
One more power play for Canada as Barnes was sent off for a stick in the face of Saulnier. Less than two and a half minutes left. Maschmeyer came out with a little more than half of the power play to go. Natalie Spooner was called for holding with less than a minute left so it was 4 on 4 until Maschmeyer came out.
Canada made Rigsby work. She saved a Fortino shot, kept a puck out with Turnbull whacking at it in front of her.
The Americans iced the puck with a few seconds to go but Canada couldn’t keep the puck in the zone. USA takes this one 3-2.
Players of the game were Brianne Jenner for Canada and Dani Cameranesi for USA.
Shots were pretty even, 33 to 30 in favour of the US.
Team USA are in play again tomorrow, this time against Switzerland, who I’m sure will try their best. Sweden faces France in hopes of actually winning a game this tournament.