The National Women's Hockey League continues its offseason with numerous player signings, its first international draft and several front office moves. In case you've missed anything over the last few weeks, let's take a look at what's happened in the league.
The quarterfinals were pretty much as expected, with a couple of stunning goaltending performances in the mix. These set the stage for semifinals on Saturday: USA vs. Russia and Canada vs. Finland. These matchups may feel like foregone conclusions, but they're not free passes.
USA vs. Japan (4-0)
Nana Fujimoto made 49 saves and was the best player on the ice in a loss that is really more of a win for Japan. Clearly containing and upsetting the vaunted Team USA offense was not in the cards, but they damn well did their best, and made a case all tournament for perhaps the most improved program in the world. With an offense that could really click at times, great goaltending, and some strong two-way players, Japan really had a chance to shine in the new 10-team format.
Three of four team USA goals came from cross-crease rebound action where Fujimoto had to move across the crease quickly and couldn't. If Japan had been more effective at clearing the crease for Fujimoto and disrupting cross-ice passes, this is an even closer game. Goals came from Hilary Knight, Dani Cameranesi, Cayla Barnes, and Kendall Coyne Schofield.
Russia vs. Switzerland (3-0)
Russia beat Switzerland but draws Team USA, who last lit them up for 10 goals, in the semifinal. Andrea Brandli made 41 saves on 43 shots for Switzerland and Nadezhda Morozova earned the shutout for Russia.
Anna Shokhina and Yelena Dergachyova scored the goals on Brandli, both capitalizing on defensive breakdowns in from of the Swiss net. Alevtina Shtaryova added an empty netter.
Canada vs. Germany (5-0)
Canada ran roughshod over Germany for a 5-0 result, drawing Finland in the semifinal.
A classic Blayre Turnbull goal opened the scoring, cutting to the center of the ice to beat Jennifer Harß after evading a German defender. Rebecca Johnston could have made it 2-0 but it was ruled that Mélodie Daoust had interfered with the goaltender in the crease.
Brianne Jenner added a redirect goal in the second on the power play, followed by a layup from Laura Stacey. Another redirect power play in the third by Spooner and another, nearly identical goal by Turnbull rounded out the scoring.
Finland vs. Czech Republic (3-1)
This was probably the biggest opportunity in the quarterfinals for a possible upset, but Finland asserted their position as the #3 team in the world handily. The two teams played a totally clean first period – no goals, no penalties. Natálie Mlýnková got the Czechs on the board first on a partial breakaway, gaining speed and cutting to the middle to put a backhander past Noora Räty.
Michelle Karvinen evened things up on the power play, weaving her way through the Czech penalty killers and picking the top left corner on Klara Peslarová through a partial screen.
Karvinen was essential in the go-ahead goal for Finland as well, drawing Peslarová far out of her net and then setting up Susanna Tapani for the layup.
Captain Jenni Hiirikoski made it 3-1 with a big slapshot on the power play.
Sweden vs. France (3-2)
The placement game was probably closer than Sweden would have liked but they still remained the better of the two teams that were relegated in this tournament.
Sofie Lundin opened the scoring for Sweden late in the second period by rocketing a shot from the point past Caroline Baldin through a screen of several players. Sweden would go up 2-0 on a power play goal by Emma Nordin about 9 minutes into the third.
France very nearly mounted a comeback. Clara Rozier managed to beat Sara Grahn five-hole on a mostly harmless far shot to make it 2-1 with 6 and a half minutes to go. One minute later, France gave away the puck trying to exit their zone, and Isabell Palm was able to capitalize by going to the front of the net undefended. She took a pass from Nordin and beat Baldin with a quick shot. Chloé Aurard added a rebound goal on a late power play for France, but ultimately they couldn't get the tying goal.
Semifinals – Saturday, April 13
- Canada vs. Finland (9:00 AM Eastern) (TSN / NHL Network)
- USA vs. Russia (1:00 PM Eastern) (TSN / NHL Network)
After the Semifinals, the bronze medal game will be at 9:00 AM Eastern on Sunday April 14, followed by the gold medal game at 1:00 PM Eastern.
Filed under: 2019 iihf women's world championship; team usa; team japan; team canada; team finland; team germany; team czech republic; team france; team sweden; team russia; team switzerland; ice hockey
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