Notes from the NWHL's Buffalo Beauts' recent free agent camp, on the league's upcoming drafts & free agency periods, a new head coach for the Toronto Six, player signings & more.
United States 3, Canada 2 -- Gold Medal Game
After achieving a landmark victory off the ice just two days before the tournament started, the United States Women's National Team made history on the ice, winning their first ever Women's World Championship on home soil.
They did so in dramatic fashion, with Hilary Knight blocking a shot, passing it to Kendall Coyne and then following her to receive Coyne's pass and score in overtime.
Coyne said that in the intermission between the third period and overtime she told Knight "f-ing rip it" and Knight said as soon as she blocked the shot she knew she had to get the puck to Coyne "cause she's fast as hell" and she was going to get up the ice with it.
Team USA coach Robb Stauber has been preaching team togetherness and chemistry and it all started with his top line. Knight, Coyne, and Decker know each other so well and they're complemented by defenders Kacey Bellamy and Monique Lamoureux-Davidson. The five of them have been playing together on Team USA for years and they know how each other's minds work. As the #1 forward line and defensive pairing for Team USA, they've been stellar throughout the tournament, and the gold medal game was just further evidence of their elite play.
It started with Knight dropping a pass from behind the net to Bellamy, who was waiting in front of the net to put the puck out of the zone. And it culminated with Knight's game-winning (and tournament-winning) goal.
Bellamy scored both of Team USA's regulation goals -- something that she's not particularly know for from the blue line. But both times the opportunity was there and she finished the job.
Coach Laura Schuler was decidedly even keeled throughout the tournament and stressed how happy she was with her team's performance on Friday.
Canada looked much improved from the early days of the tournament and matched Team USA's pace. The game moved up and down the ice quickly. Canada got on the board first, just 1:01 into the game. But the Canadian players didn't get the boost from that they wanted and it didn't slow down the Americans, who evened the score just 3:34 later.
It wasn't the tournament Canada wanted to have and just 10 months out from Pyeongchang. Team Canada has more questions than answers at this point.
The team will centralize for a minimum of six months before heading to the Olympics, which gives them a chance to iron out every wrinkle that emerged this weekend. Meghan Agosta was looking forward to centralizing, noting that Hockey Canada does everything in their power to make it great experience for the players and to help them to succeed.
"When you get your best out of everybody, that's when you're successful as a team," she said.
Schuler hopes her players remember the hurt they felt on the ice while hearing someone else's anthem and that they use that to motivate themselves through the vigorous training of the next few months.
"It's important for us to hold our heads high and don't forget about this moment. As we go forward with our training, let it fuel us as we go forward. You never want to hear another person's anthem. It hurts, there's no doubt about that. There was a lot in that game for us to be proud of," she said.
Big Time Players
I commented to Hilary Knight after USA's opening round win against Russia that it was telling to me that this was the first time we saw her in the postgame Mixed Zone. Normally the face of Team USA, media members had been asking to speak to other players. The scoring had been spread throughout the lineup and I thought that people weren't immediately grabbing on to Knight's familiar face said a lot about the depth of the team as well as the expanded interest in the team.
Knight didn't score her first goal of the tournament until that game and spent much of the tournament in a supporting role to linemates Coyne and Brianna Decker -- something she was totally fine with.
But big time players make big time plays, so it's unsurprising that it was Knight, in the end, who went down on one knee to block a shot by Canada's Halli Krzyzaniak with her chest before corralling the puck and feeding it to Coyne.
Evenly Split in OT
Prior to Friday night, six WWC gold medal games had gone to overtime and US and Canada had each won three. Canada won in 1997, 2000, and 2012, with the US succeeding in 2005, 2011 and 2016.
Finland 8, Germany 0
As much as Finland was hoping for something more than a bronze medal this tournament, they were thrilled not only to win a medal, but win more respect from their opponents and the hockey community as large this week.
Their decisive win over Germany in the bronze medal game was a statement. They didn't get as far as they'd have liked in the tournament, but with the win over Canada and eight goals in two periods against the Germans, they gave notice that they've separated themselves from the rest of the European countries and are a threat to enter that top echelon in international women's hockey.
"We know that we are at the same level with Canada and US. We wanted to prove that we belong. I feel confident that we are much better than the [other] European teams," said Mira Jaluso.
Goaltender Noora Räty said earlier in the tournament that it wouldn't be fun until she won a medal. Standing holding her bronze medal in the mixed zone on Friday she said: "Now it's fun."
"It's a good ending for the tournament. We made a good statement here. We kind of separated from the rest of the Europeans and actually have a chance to play in the Finals one day," she said.
Quote of the day from Germany coach Benjamin Hinterstocker, when asked what he liked that he saw from his goalies this week:
"I liked everything."
Being outscored 19-0 in the final two games certainly doesn't leave a positive shine on the end of this tournament for the Germans, but they have to make sure to look past those two games to see what they accomplished.
One big thing they take from the final game is how they played the last period. In the intermission, Hinterstocker stressed to his team how important it was to find something in the game that they could build on. The Germans held Finland scoreless in the third and Hinterstocker was thrilled with how they responded.
"It's part of our hockey. We never give up. We play 60 minutes," he said.
Their advancement this weekend is a direct result of managerial decisions made behind the scenes in Germany. From moving younger players up to the senior squad so that they get experience to hiring a goaltending coach, the Germans are investing in their program in the best way they know how so that they can be successful in the future.
And the success they had at the World Championships is something they can take back to their country with them to show the positive outcomes of the decisions made years ago. With a small player pool, Hinterstocker and his staff have always been looking to the future and working to grow the program and recognition of hockey in Germany.
The 2017 World Championships weren't an ending -- just another step in the right direction.
Switzerland 3, Czech Republic 1
Team Switzerland earned the right to stay in the top group with a win in the third game of the best-of-three relegation round.
Proposed changes to the World Championship's format that will be voted on in May could also mean the Czechs stay up, but for now, the Czech Republic is the team relegated to Division I.
The Czech's inability to score combined with the experience on Switzerland's roster were two of the most important aspects of the series.
Switzerland was happy to earn the right to stay, but were by no means happy with the way they played this tournament. The past few seasons have been something of a roller coaster for the team that captured the Olympic bronze medal in Sochi.
"It's a process and every nation is getting better and we have to do the same," said forward Lara Stalder.
Alina Muller echoed the sentiment.
"We can't be happy with seventh place. We wanted to make the quarterfinals. I think we showed that we were a good team," she said.
Even with disappointment, Stalder said there were things the Swiss learned this tournament that will help them going forward.
"I'm so proud of us for keep going. It's huge. It is frustrating if you get knocked down all the time. That just makes you even stronger and shows character. I think that was huge this tournament," she said.
The young Czech Republic team showed flashes of brilliance and a ton of promise. Young Tereza Vanišová was brilliant for them. With so many of their players heading to the NCAA to develop and grow, the future looks bright for them.
Second best quote of the day, from Switzerland's Lara Stalder on why their power play was finally able to break through in the third game of the series
"I didn't hit the net that much in the past and today … I found it!"
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Filed under: 2017 women's world championship; ice hockey; team usa; team switzerland; team canada; team germany; team czech republic; team finland
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