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Women’s Worlds Quarterfinal Preview

Winner takes all from here to September 4.

IHOCKEY-WC-WOMEN-DEN-CZE Photo by HENNING BAGGER/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

The group stage of women’s worlds is over, and there were surprises, great feats of effort and skill, and one giant heartbreak.

The heartbreak first:

Denmark had three points heading into their last match vs Germany. Germany hadn’t been closing out their opportunities and were heading for relegation if Denmark got even one point out of the game. Denmark, who came out strong and scored first in every game, did so again, but by the end of the third period, Germany had tied it up.

Germany had done this once before against Sweden, and they entered overtime in that game with a power play and ultimately lost the game. That point from that loss was the only thing keeping them from total devastation in the tournament — now without their starting goalie from years past.

In hockey, one team’s heartbreak is often another team’s great joy, and so it was when Germany scored at the last second of the third period. Denmark finishes last and will be relegated to Division I A.

This is the call in German, you want the sound on:

Way up in the clouds at the opposite end of the women’s championship group, USA and Canada played in the final game to set the order going into the quarterfinals. Canada had a lot of possession, but didn’t create with it, while the USA made dynamic moves with the puck and eventually wore down the Canadian defence until it was nearly a rout.

What I learned is that Canada’s coach is a “bench the kids” guy when the going gets tough. When your top kid is Sarah Fillier, maybe that’s not so bright? Just a theory. The top line for Canada wasn’t tops, simple as that. Click the tweets to see the full image, it’s a very cool viz.

But this game, as deeply annoying as it is to lose to the USA, is just a tune-up for what’s to come, and the difference in the Group B teams advancing is impossible to discern below Czechia who rolled all opponents and went undefeated with a goal differential of 21:2. Moving up to Group A is a huge step, and they might be a way off from that feat, but their quarterfinal is a very important one.

The final standings are:

Group A

  1. USA
  2. Canada
  3. Finland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Japan

Group B

  1. Czechia
  2. Sweden
  3. Hungary
  4. Germany
  5. Denmark

The seeding formula adds the top three teams from Group B to Group A to form eight teams. One plays eight, two plays seven, etc.

All quarterfinals are Thursday, September 1, and the schedule is as follows:

  • Switzerland vs Japan at 6 am (all times Eastern) on TSN3
  • USA vs Hungary at 10 am on TSN3 and NHL network in the USA
  • Finland vs Czechia at 11:30 am and listed as part of the bonus streaming schedule on TSN.ca only
  • Canada vs Sweden at 2 pm on TSN3 and NHL network

The semifinals are on Saturday, and are reseeded depending on the winners of the quarterfinals.

Sweden, Canada’s quarterfinal opponent had two overtime wins and one regulation win in Group B with a goal differential of 12:10. They don’t appear to have a strong team this year, and shouldn’t pose much problem for Canada.

Their top scorer, on a list dominated by Americans and Czechs, is Hanna Olsson with four goals and one assist which ranks her as tied for the tournament lead in goals scored with Sarah Fillier and Natálie Mlýnková.

Emma Söderberg, Sweden’s main goalie, finished with a save % of .91. The top goalie in Group B, was Czechia’s Klará Peslarová with .96. Canada’s Ann-Renée Desbiens was sixth in the tournament behind both Americans and Finland’s Anni Keisala with .92. (Emerance Mashmeyer was in net against USA and Japan for Canada.)

No matter how you look at it, Canada should sail through to the semis.

Can Czechia knock off Finland, that’s the real question. And the answer is likely no, not with decent goaltending by Finland. The Czechs need to make it the best game they’ve ever played, however. Japan did that once in this tournament, showing their best effort against a slow-starting Finland, and they also need to do it again vs Switzerland.

What’s at stake is the ranking order for next year’s worlds, only eight months away. But more importantly, the teams and the players themselves need to really understand the gaps they’ve closed in talent and depth. They can surprise. They can win key games, and they need to make it hard for the top three to get to the medal games.

This all wraps up on September 4 with the medal games.