It was a busy, busy offseason with the bonus COVID year that players can utilize
Friday is a day off in the 2021 IIHF Women's Worlds and the playoffs start on Saturday with the quarterfinals. Let's take a look at each team and how they did in the group stage, and what's next for them, whether it's the playoffs or something else.
- How'd they do? Team Canada owned Group A. After going down 2-0 to Finland in the first period of their first game, they started scoring like a well-oiled machine and never let up. Their forecheck hit its peak on Friday night against Team USA when they made the best American players look like they had never played a puck possession game before. The Americans were in disarray and the Canadians capitalized, with an exclamation point. The game was rough physically though – both sides (though most notably Team USA) took a lot of liberties in scrums and puck battles. Team Canada goes undefeated, with a rest day on Friday and an evening game against the lowest playoff seed on Saturday. This is the best outcome that the Canadians have had at the Worlds in quite some time.
- Standout players: Jamie Lee Rattray has been a superstar in this tournament – her 3 goals each came at critical moments for her team. Mélodie Daoust leads the Canadians (and the whole tournament) in scoring, though, with 4 goals and 3 assists. She's also played a completely clean game and stayed out of the penalty box. On defense, Erin Ambrose and Renata Fast have established their presence on every area of the ice and added offensive contributions to boot.
- Next matchup: Canada meets Germany in the quarterfinals at 7:00 PM Eastern Saturday on NHL Network and TSN.
- Keys to win: Play with confidence and calm but don't take their foot off the gas. Germany is a team they should handle with relative ease, but they shouldn't treat it like a walk in the park. Jennifer Harß is a tough goalie to beat and Germany has the ability to put together beautiful passing sequences that lead to quality scoring chances, so maintaining the Canadian forecheck while conserving their energy will be a balancing act.
- How'd they do? Team USA went 3-0-0-1 in the preliminary stages. Overall, they looked incredibly well put-together, until they ran into the powerhouse that is Canada. After easily taking care of Switzerland and Finland (both 3-0 games), the offense ramped up for a 6-0 win over Russia. But Thursday night, Canada absolutely overpowered them and the United States scrambled to a 5-1 loss. The defeat sent them into second place in Group A.
- Standout players: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Hilary Knight, as she broke Cammi Granato's record for goals scored in the IIHF Women's World Championship, but she isn't the only notable American on the scoresheet. Grace Zumwinkle and Lee Stecklein both played excellently in group play. Stecklein recorded four points (2G, 2A) and tied for the scoring lead among all defenders. Zumwinkle is appearing in her first World Championships and has also recorded four points. Goaltending didn't get a lot of tests early on, with Alex Cavallini and Nicole Hensley facing just ten shots each in their games against Switzerland and Finland, respectively. Cavallini then faced just 11 shots in the win over Russia. Both looked sharp in their limited action, but Cavallini went on to allow four goals on 20 shots against Canada.
- Next matchup: The United States will face Japan in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 3:30 PM Eastern on NHL Network and TSN.
- Keys to win: Stay disciplined, and play a full sixty-minute effort. Goaltending is also key, and it's one of their strong points: between Alex Cavallini and Nicole Hensley, the duo recorded a 1.25 GAA. As long as they don't absolutely collapse like they did against Canada, the Americans should be in a good position.
- How'd they do? Finland will still be disappointed with their performance agains Team USA and Team Canada, but they got some much-needed confidence beating the ROC 4-0 and Switzerland 6-0 later in the week. They end the group stage ranked 3rd in Group A. Arguably they helped Team Canada find their stride in the tournament by getting that early 2-0 lead in their first game of the Worlds and making them buckle down and practice their forecheck, which doesn't bode well for everyone else in this competition. Obliterating Switzerland on a nice Thursday afternoon definitely felt good and got Team Finland loosened up for the playoffs.
- Standout players: Petra Nieminen had a coming out party against Switzerland, scoring 3 goals and adding 1 assist in the first period alone. She also scored 2 goals against the Russians on Wednesday and her linemates Susanna Tapani (3G, 1A) and Michelle Karvinen (5A) are also heating up. If that line can perform, they have a chance to beat anyone. Additionally, both Meeri Räisänen and Anni Keisala have been great in net, and have a bit of an internal goaltender battle going on, so it'll be interesting to see who Pasi Mustonen taps for the start in their first elimination game.
- Next matchup: Finland draws the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals, set for Saturday at 10:30 PM Eastern on NHL Network and TSN. This should be a fun one with some potential for good back-and-forth action.
- Keys to win: This is a Czech team that can be electric on offense, so tight defense will be key, and Team Finland will have to keep their offensive groove rolling. Score early and often and take a page out of Canada's book by playing a physical forechecking game.
- How'd they do? Russia won their first game of group play, but things went downhill from there, as they lost the other three games and were shut out twice. After defeating Switzerland 3-1, they fell to Canada 5-1 and then dropped shutout decisions to the United States and Finland. It hasn't been a great tournament so far for the Russians, but they can now put group play behind them and focus on the quarterfinals ahead.
- Standout players: Head coach Yevgeni Bobariko utilized his goalies almost equally over the course of group play. Valeria Merkusheva tended net for the team's lone win, but overall allowed five goals on 35 shots faced. Nadezhda Morozova stopped 41 of 45 shots she faced over the course of two games and has a team-best 3.04 GAA. Anna Prugova, projected to be the team's main netminder, actually played the least of the trio. She appeared in two games, allowing seven goals and accruing a 5.84 GAA. Russia's offense struggled to string much together, as evidenced by their being shutout in consecutive matches. It certainly didn’t help that they faced strong goaltending in both Canada and the United States, and were unable to solve Anni Keisala. Four different players recorded goals, but Olga Sosina was the only to register more than one point overall.
- Next matchup: Russia will face Switzerland in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 12:30 PM Eastern on NHL Network and TSN.
- Keys to win: Russia's offense (6.15%) has been much more efficient than Switzerland’s (1.96%). A big difference-maker here – and going forward, if they win – will be staying out of the penalty box. It's a narrow margin, but Russia tied with Denmark as the most-penalized team in the preliminary round.
- How'd they do? Just like in 2019, this is a Swiss team that struggled to find offense of any kind. Alina Müller scored their only goal in group play and then went down with an injury. They finish at the bottom of Group A heading into the playoffs.
- Standout players: Obviously Andrea Brändli has been unbelievable between the pipes for this Swiss team, and if anyone can steal a game for her team, it'd be her – but they'd have to find a way to score. The most likely person to break through would seem to be Lara Stalder who has 10 shots on goal through four games. Not far behind her, defender Sinja Leemann has 9.
- Next matchup: Switzerland has drawn ROC in the quarterfinals, who they matched up with more favorably than any other team in the group stage despite the 3-1 loss. They amassed 20 shots in the game, many from decent scoring locations – not kept to the outside by any means, but Valeria Merushkeva was solid. It's definitely an opportunity for the Swiss to play a different kind of hockey than they've played so far in the tournament if they get on the ice with the right mindset, which is that they can win this game. They'll play at 12:30 PM Eastern on NHL Network and TSN.
- Keys to win: Pucks on net. Score one goal. Then try to score another. Keep it fantastically simple, and play physical when possible – aggressive forechecking will help keep the Russian offense at bay.
- How'd they do? The Czech team finishes handily atop Group B with 4 wins and the most shots on goal in that group as well, with 119 – the next most in the group was Japan with 81.
- Standout players: Alena Mills has 4 goals and 1 assist through 4 games in the group stage and has been a big piece of the Czech success, scoring big goals from the blueline. Dominika Laskova has 4 goals herself. But we would be remiss to not mention Klára Peslarová who has played all 240 minutes for her team and is carrying a 94.83% save percentage and 0.75 GAA into the playoffs. She's played nearly every senior level international game for the Czechs since her team was promoted to the IIHF top division in 2016 and she will have her work cut out for her in this game – for her team to have a chance to win she needs to stay flawless.
- Next matchup: The Czech Republic will meet Finland in the quarterfinals. Back in 2019, they had this same quarterfinal matchup and lost 3-1, while being outshot 43 to 17. They'll play at 10:30 PM Eastern on NHL Network and TSN.
- Keys to win: If the Czech Republic wants to flip the script on Finland, they will need to create turnovers and make space for their forwards. They'll also need to adapt to a more physical game and weather the storm of Finland's defense to find openings and retrieve contested pucks.
- How'd they do? With just one loss in the preliminaries, Japan finishes group play second in Group B. Their only loss came at the hands of the Czech Republic, a 4-0 defeat. They weren't a high-scoring group, putting together only seven goals in the four games, but it worked for them.
- Standout players: Nana Fujimoto was the only Japanese goaltender to see action in group play. She recorded a 93.33% save percentage, allowing just six goals on 90 shots faced. Forward Haruka Toko led the team with three assists, while Hikaru Yamashita potted two goals.
- Next matchup: Japan will face the United States in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 3:30 PM EST on NHL Network and TSN.
- Keys to win: Japan will have to find any weakness they can in a strong United States team. Getting the Americans off their game early on and then holding tight to not allow them any space to create plays would be a good place to start.
- How'd they do? Germany finds themselves third in Group B after going 2-0-0-2. Three of their four games were one- or two-goal decisions, so teams kept things pretty close. Their penalty killing was strong, clearing all 12 disadvantages they faced without a goal against.
- Standout players: In net, Jennifer Harß recorded a 1.00 GAA in three games, a great showing for the 34-year-old. Offensively, Julia Zorn contributed a pair of goals and added an assists for three points, while averaging 17:39 per game. Katarina Jobst-Smith led all German players in ice time (22:34/avg.).
- Next matchup: Germany will face Canada in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 7:00 PM Eastern on NHL Network and TSN.
- Keys to win: Shoot early & often. Spend as little time in their own zone as possible, to stifle Canada's offense. (This will undoubtedly be a challenge!) Something the Germans will want to keep in mind is that Canada's goaltenders have barely been tested, facing only 53 shots across 4 games all tournament. Building up their shot total and trying to crash the net could make a huge difference against goalies who probably aren't feeling too comfortable out there yet.
- How’d they do? After scoring just three goals in their first three games combined, Hungary's offense pieced together a nice 5-1 victory over Denmark to record their first-ever top-level win at World Championships. Although the overall results may not have been top-of-the-bunch, it's a respectable showing from a team making their top division debut.
- Standout players: As expected, Anikó Németh played the majority of time in net, but 18-year-old Zsófia Tóth did get her chance in the game against the Czech Republic. Németh registered a 2.67 GAA, stopping 58 of 66 shots faced, and recorded Hungary’s lone win in group play. It's also little surprise that forward Fanni Gasparics led the team in scoring. The 26-year-old recorded five points, including two goals in the win over Denmark. Half of her goals came on the power play, and she played an average of 19:42 per game. Another standout player was 24-year-old Kinga Jókai Szilágyi, who notched three assists and added one goal. Combined, the duo accounted for a quarter of Hungary's shots on goal.
- Next matchup: Hungary’s time in meaningful action at the 2021 IIHF World Championships has come to an end, but the good news is that they don’t have to worry about relegation. The Hungarians will finish the tournament in ninth place; before heading home, they'll wrap up their top-division debut with an exhibition game against Denmark on Sunday in Calgary. They will also play in an Olympic qualification tournament in Chomutov, Czech Republic starting on November 11, along with the Czechs, Team Norway, and an additional to-be-determined team.
- How'd they do? Team Denmark finishes at the bottom of Group B with no wins and 3 total goals, but a lot to be proud of as they generated some offense in their top division debut.
- Standout players: Josefine Jakobsen and Josefine Persson led their team's offense by driving to the middle of the ice and creating shooting space for themselves. They combined for 21 shots on goal throughout the tournament. Goaltender Cassandra Repstock-Romme started 2 games and posted a 92.59% save percentage and seemed to establish herself handily as this team's #1 in net going forward.
- Next matchup: Team Denmark will play an exhibition on Sunday against Hungary. Later, the team heads to an Olympic qualification tournament in Füssen, Germany beginning on November 11, along with Team Germany, Team Austria, and an additional to-be-determined team.
Filed under: ice hockey; 2021 iihf women's world championship; team canada; team usa; team finland; team switzerland; ROC; team czech republic; team germany; team japan; team hungary; team denmark
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