USA 6, Sweden 3
The Americans earned their first win of the tournament over host Sweden on Sunday thanks to a balanced attack that began to pull away in the final frame. Special teams were on display throughout the game as a total of 14 penalties were called. The US gave up a shorthanded goal in the first, but were 3-for-6 on the power play and 7-for-8 on the penalty kill. The puck was bouncing the right way for Team USA, with most of their goals deflecting into the net off Swedish players.
Sweden had an answer for the USA through the opening two frames, but Lucia DiGirolamo's goal early in the third made it a 4-2 game and gave USA the momentum to close out the game. Maggie Scannell led the team with a goal and an assist. Megan Healy and Alexandra Lalonde each added two assists.
It was a good 60 minutes from Sweden and a good showing for them in front of a sold out home crowd and national TV broadcast. I hope they continue to play well and can put together a full 60 minutes in future matchups.
What We Learned:
- SDHL side effects – It’s difficult to ignore the Swedes in the penalty box, especially when so many of the calls were for roughing and illegal hits. The SDHL is testing out allowing more body contact and the Swedish team struggled to reign that in and find the balance. It's definitely an unintentional but important consequence of the rule change in the professional league. This is the first international women's tournament after the rule change took effect and it was immediately apparent that switching it off was difficult for the Sweden skaters. These contact penalties by SDHL regulars are something to keep an eye on in this tournament and beyond.
- Adjusting as they go – US coach Katie Lachapelle wasn't happy with how her team played in the second period, feeling like they got a little complacent and sloppy with fundamentals. But the group responded to intermission reminders and looked much better in the third. That the team could course-correct in the middle of a game is a good sign of their skill and development as a squad. It's likely not a coincidence that they started to pull away in the third as they played a more disciplined game.
- USA F Lucia DiGiolamo – The forward had been in the mix for Team USA but was not initially invited to a more recent camp. She was brought in as first alternate when a player tested positive for Covid. From there, she played her way onto this roster, where she’s taking advantage of her second chance. She was among team leaders in time on ice and shifts.
- Sweden D Jenna Raunio – She didn't appear anywhere on the scoresheet, but she still stood out on the ice. She was one of the team's most notable players in Madison in June and again tonight she was a playmaker on the ice. She led the team with seven shots, was directing traffic and just really showing leadership and ice management beyond her years.
"I thought we had a really strong start to the game. Sweden did a really good job pushing back and the pace of play was back-and-forth. They played physical, and we tried to play physical as well." – US coach Katie Lachapelle
"Go into each new game with a clean slate here and work hard for each shift. Each shift matters. Make an impact every time you’re on the ice." – USA F Maggie Scannell
"We need to play faster and do everything cleaner." – Sweden F Emma Rehn
"Most of these girls play in the [SDHL]. It's difficult to play another way when you come play the international game." - Rehn
"We need to work together. Not like individuals like we did today." - Sweden coach Andreas Karlsson
Canada 8 , Finland 0
The Canadians made a definitive statement with a complete and dominant win over the Finland team that had beaten them just days before the tournament. Dominant doesn't feel like strong enough vocabulary for the absolute authority Canada showed on the ice. They out-shot Finland 48-9, including 17-0 in the first period. It was a fast and relentless game where the Canadian skaters shot the puck like they had a vendetta. They scored a number of goals five hole and generally made it a nightmare outing for Finnish goalie Kerttu Kuja-Halkola. Caitlin Kraemer led the team with two goals and an assist, while Piper Grober, Gracie Graham, and Abby Stonehouse each added a goal and an assist.
Finland was tight, nervous and overwhelmed. Coach Mira Kuisma said she and her staff tried to loosen the team up before the game, but the players looked like the moment was too big and they weren’t sure what to do with it. I asked what they’d take from this moving forward and she said they'll be shutting the door on this game and moving on. Finland will be looking to bounce back, but it doesn’t get easier from here.
What We Learned:
- New Canada?: It’s not lost on me that this is the score the Americans beat Canada in the preliminaries back in June. Obviously that tournament turned out okay for the Canadians, but it felt striking to me that this team seemed focused on exerting their power here from the get-go. There's an argument that it doesn't matter what the opening rounds look like if the result is a gold medal, but the attitude and approach differences between June and now really struck me.
- Canada D Piper Grober – She led the team in time on ice and shots. She obviously wasn't called on much to defend, but was there when needed and was able to control their blue line while also being an integral part of the offense.
- Finland F Sanni Vanhanen – No surprise here that one of their most experienced players still managed to stand out in a game like this. She won 11 of her 16 faceoffs and was not on the ice for any of Canada's goals, which feels nigh on impossible in a game like this. What little offense the team mustered on Sunday, she was the driver of.
"Don't change anything. Continuing and not stopping. Everything can get better. Nothing is perfect. We never have to be satisfied and just keep going." – Canada F Caitlin Kraemer
"We for sure worked as a team. Moved the puck well and used our speed against the opponents and buried them. It was a team effort. We were very excited for this game and of course we wanted a little rematch. We came out and wanted to prove ourselves. I think we did." – Canada F Alex Law
"I think it's nice to set the tone for the tournament. It was really nice to see our team come together. The pucks they went in today, so that was really nice to see. I think focusing on our O-zone play was something we put time into." – Canada coach Courtney Birchard-Kessel
"We know that we have to forget this one, because we know what type of game we can play." – Finland coach Mira Kuisma
Czechia 3, Switzerland 2
It was a heartbreaking loss for Switzerland, who found themselves in the unfamiliar territory of leading Czechia 2-0 before seven minutes had elapsed in the first period. But the Czechs regrouped. They slowly began to break down the Swiss defense, who were stalwart in front of their net to start the game, but were slowly drawn out of position as the game progressed, giving Czechia more room to pass and find open players.
What We Learned:
- Experience extras – Switzerland does not often play with a lead, much less for 40 minutes over a team expected to compete for a medal. The longer the game went on with the Swiss ahead, the sloppier they got, both in their fundamentals and mentally. They hadn’t really "been there" before and weren’t really prepared to handle themselves in that position. It's not the type of thing we usually mean when we say experience matters, but it's one of those intangibles that takes time to learn and manage. It was a really harsh way to learn the lesson.
- Next level Czechs – It took just 15 minutes of the third period for Czechia to turn this game around. Just as for Team USA, their in game adjustments were key. It was fascinating to watch the players get absolutely shut down by the Swiss defense and come back in the second and third looking to pick it apart. Switzerland lost focus a bit, but there was also superb coaching and play as Czechia was able to play a perimeter game that drew the defense to them and opened up lanes.
- Switzerland D Alessia Baechler – She was on the ice for 11 of the 20 minutes of the final period and put in a total of 36 shifts. Our official stats don't show blocks, but she had to be among team leaders. She was everything you want your top line defender to be, starting breakouts, directing the team in the defensive zone and getting involved on the offensive end.
- Czechia F Domenika Malicka – I often try to choose a player other than the one named Best Player to highlight more subtle, but impactful performances, but in this case, it has to be Malicka. On a team with some big name players, she stood out as a second line forward with a commanding presence and great puck movement. It was easy to see why she is part of the team's leadership group.
"I always believe in my team and my team played amazing today, so it ended up working in our favor. I knew that we were going to put those two in. And I was just like, I can't let any more in." – Czechia goalie Michaela Hesova
"We wanted to start with an absolutely strong defensive group and we did that. We didn't give them a lot of time, a lot of space." – Swiss coach Melanie Haefliger
"I'm sad for the team, they worked so hard against strong opponents." – Haefliger
"[Switzerland] plays with self-confidence and they work hard. They blocked a lot of shots. They were a very good opponent for us." – Czechia coach Dusan Andrasovsky
"It was not a perfect game, not a good game for us, but (what is) important is that we played 60 minutes. I'm happy with the result but we have to be a little bit better tomorrow." – Andrasovsky
Slovakia 6, Japan 3
Slovakia's Zuzana Dobiasova scored her first-ever hat trick and was 16 of 19 from the faceoff dot. Nela Lopušanová added two goals and two assists while Hana Krakorova and Emma Tothova each had two assists. Nagomi Murakami's two goals and one assist lead Japan.
- Team Czechia beat Japan by a score of 5-1 this morning. Czech goals came from Tereza Pištěková, Tereza Plosová, Linda Vocetková, Lucie Velinská, and Adéla Šapovalivová; Japan's lone goal was by Ai Tada early in the third period.
- Team USA vs. Team Finland is in progress as of 10:30 AM Eastern US time with Team USA leading 1-0.