PHF Playoff Preview: Isobel Cup Final
Previewing the 2023 Isobel Cup Final between the Premier Hockey Federation's Minnesota Whitecaps & Toronto Six.
Recapping day five of the 2022 IIHF Women's World Championships, where Finland, Czechia, the United States and Sweden emerged victorious.
Japan had arguably its strongest performance of the preliminary round today, scoring a tournament-high three goals and putting 20 shots on net in their loss to Finland. In their four games, Japan went 0-0-0-4 and allowed 31 goals against to four goals for and will finish at the bottom of Group A.
Sofianna Sundelin did a lot of things right on Finland's first goal, pursuing the puck around the back of the net and passing it to a teammate, then charging to the doorstep and getting into position at the right time to send it in. The lead lasted only a few minutes, however, before Akana Shiga scored her first of two, capitalizing on a low pass to tie the game.
Moments later, Susanna Tapani regained Finland's lead, winning a battle at the blueline and then bringing the puck all the way to the crease. She cut across, got the goalie out of position, and slid it in between Miyuu Masuhara's pad and the post. Finland outshot Japan 15-5 in the first period.
Finland would add four more goals in the second period, including a pair by Viivi Vainikka. Vainikka scored 1:33 into the middle frame before Elisa Holopainen gave her team a three-goal lead six minutes later. Holopainen's goal saw her use her speed to cut up the middle of the ice, then get through two defenders to get the shot off.
Shiga scored her second of the game just past the midway point, getting Japan within two on a shot from just above the goal line. Just as quickly, Finland received goals from Vainikka and Petra Nieminen before the end of the period to take a four-goal lead.
Nelli Laitinen and Sini Karjalainen added goals in the third period, while Holopainen also scored her second of the game. Aoi Shiga scored Japan's final goal with less than two minutes to play.
Meeri Raisainen finished the game with 17 saves, while Masuhara had 42 saves. Finland was led by Sanni Rantala, who had three assists; Holopainen and Vainikka each had a pair of goals and an assist. Akane Shiga was named Japan's best player and reocrded three points (2-1) in 23:42.
Germany continues to look for their first win of the preliminary round, which they'll have one final crack at tomorrow against Denmark. Their luck rank out against Czechia, who sits atop Group B with a 3-0-0-0 record and nine points.
Eleven different Czech players recorded at least a point in the win, led by Katerina Mrazova, who had three assists. Natalie Mlynkova was named best player.
Adela Sapovalivova opened the scoring on the power-play with under eight minutes to play in the first period, sniping a top-shelf shot from below the faceoff circle to the goaltender's right. Minutes later, another German penalty led to - you guessed it! - another Czech power play goal. This time, it was Mlynkova's tally.
Alena Mills, Noemi Neubauerova and Agata Sarnovska scored in the second period, all at equal strength this time. Mills picked up the puck along the boards, skated it in and used some fancy stickwork to deflect the puck off the goaltender and into the back of the net. Neubauerova's goal came about three minutes later as she snagged a bouncing puck off the boards behind the net, while Sarnovska closed the period with a tally in the final minute, tapping in a pass at the side of the net.
Both teams elected to switch goaltenders for the third period, with Blanka Skodova coming in to relieve Klara Peslarova, and Franziska Albl relieving Sandra Abstreiter.
Klara Hymlarova made it 6-0 just 1:06 into the final frame to help Czechia maintain its perfect record at this year's Worlds. Final shots on goal were 32-9 in favor of Czechia, who took only one penalty over the course of the game. For Germany, defender Katarina Jobst-Smith played a team-high 19:51, including 9:09 in the first period alone. She accounted for three of her team's nine shots on goal. On the other side, Hymlarova had five shots on goal. Mills had two points.
The United States maintained their perfect record with a decisive win over the Swiss; they'll get the chance to challenge Canada's own perfect record in tomorrow's meeting as both teams vie for the top spot in Group A.
Hannah Bilka was named best player of the game, with a goal, two assists and six shots on goal. Hilary Knight and Taylor Heise each recorded a pair of goals, while Alex Carpenter notched three assists. Abby Roque, still the 13th forward, had a goal and two shots, and went 61.54% in the faceoff dot, in 12:21 played.
Team USA scored four goals in each of the first and third periods and allowed just four shots against over the course of sixty minutes. Final shots were 57-4; credit to both Saskia Maurer (30 saves/35 shots) and Andrea Braendli (18 saves/22 shots) for keeping this game in the single digits.
Roque opened the scoring, winning the faceoff and then getting loose from defenders in front of the net to slide the puck home less than six minutes in. After both teams successfully killed penalties later in the period, Bilka and Heise (2) scored within a few minutes to quickly increase the United States' lead.
Switzerland seemed to settle into the game a bit more in the middle frame, after being outshot 22-1 in the first. Although they only managed two shots in the second period, they held the US to just 12 shots and one goal. Knight's power-play tally came in the final five minutes, slamming it in from the edge of the circle to Maurer's left.
Knight would score her second of the game in the third period. Savannah Harmon, Cayla Barnes (PP) and Grace Zumwinkle also scored. Maddie Rooney was perfect in net, while Megan Keller led the Americans in ice time (21:55). She was the only American to play over 19 minutes.
Hanna Olsson continues to be the hero for Sweden, as this time she scored the game-winning shot in the shootout to give her team the victory. It was her third attempt of the shootout, and truly, the third time was the charm, this time.
Overall, this was a pretty even game. Seventeen-year-old Mira Jungaker opened the scoring for Sweden about four minutes in, bringing the puck up the ice and into the zone and then sneakily managing to get the puck off a Hungarian player's stick and poke it in.
After each team had opportunities on the advantage, Hungary finally capitalized late in the opening frame. Emma Kreisz tied the game on a shot from down low, skating in front and forcing the puck through the goaltender's pads.
Linnea Johansson regained Sweden's lead just over five minutes into the second period, redirecting a shot in front from Maja Nylen Persson at the point. That goal stood as the differencemaker for over 23 minutes of action, before Franciska Kiss-Simon tied the game again in the third on a tap-in rebound.
A relatively uneventful overtime then led to the shootout, which required eight rounds to determine a winner. Ida Boman had 40 saves in the victory for Sweden, while Aniko Nemeth stopped 37 of 39 shots faced. Sara Hjlamarsson (SWE, 26:55) and Fanni Gasparics (HUN, 26:24) each saw a lot of ice time, respectively.
Coming Up Tomorrow (Tuesday, August 30)