2023 IIHF Women's World Championship Preview
- 16 min read

2023 IIHF Women's World Championship Preview

2023 IIHF Women's World Championship Preview by Zoë Hayden, Nicole Haase, Victory Press Staff

The 2023 IIHF Women's World Championship kicks off in Brampton, Ontario on April 5th. TSN in Canada is scheduled to carry broadcasts of all games throughout its channels, including Group B. In the United States, NHL Network will carry Team USA's games and likely the knockout stage games (rebroadcasting TSN's feed). All games will be played at the CAA Centre in Brampton, on the same ice sheet, at a rink that seats 5,000.

Nicole and Zoë split up writing duties for some quick previews of each team in this year's Worlds.

Group A

Team Canada

2022 finish: Captured gold in 2022 thanks to 2 goals by Brianne Jenner.

Forwards: Emily Clark, Sarah Fillier, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Emma Maltais, Jamie Lee Rattray, Sarah Nurse, Kristin O'Neill, Marie-Philip Poulin, Danielle Serdachny, Natalie Spooner, Laura Stacey, Blayre Turnbull

Defense: Erin Ambrose, Jaime Bourbonnais, Renata Fast, Jocelyn Larocque, Ella Shelton, Claire Thompson, Micah Zandee-Hart

Goaltenders: Kristen Campbell, Ann-Renée Desbiens, Emerance Maschmeyer

Head coach: Troy Ryan returns as head coach, a role he's held since the 2020-21 season.

Keep an eye on: Danielle Serdachny, most recently team captain at Colgate, is making her official senior national team debut in this tournament (outside of the Rivalry Series). Serdachny led the NCAA in points in the 2022-23 season with 71 in just 40 games (25G, 46A). She hasn't played with Canada in an IIHF tournament since the U18s in 2019 so this will be our first look at her in that situation. How she fits in will be exciting to watch, as at age 21 she could be a major part of Team Canada's future.

Claire Thompson wasn't with this team last Worlds, but she had a monster Olympics and a solid outing with Team Sonnet during this year's PWHPA tour. She and Zandee-Hart provide a dynamic two-way capability on D that really gives this roster a little bit of secret sauce. Watching them improve the details of their game the last few seasons has been really special.

Marie-Philip Poulin needs no introduction. She scored 27 points in 20 games this season in the PWHPA for Team Harvey's and added 2 assists in the Secret Cup championship game as part of an unreasonably good line with Jessie Eldridge and Emily Clark. She simply never slows down and is playing at a rarified level on every stage.

How are they going to do?: It's hard to imagine a gold medal game without the Canadians. They return much of their roster from last year's Worlds with some minor adjustments – for example, Jessie Eldridge seems to be the odd forward out to make room for Serdachny; Johnston is back on the roster instead of Victoria Bach; and Thompson and Bourbonnais join on D instead of Meaghan Mikkelson and Ashton Bell. That said, none of those roster changes constitutes a downgrade or an unknown quantity. You could make an entire team, with alternates, out of Canadian players that didn't make this roster and it would still be a medal contender. Canada is stacked and if they end up anywhere than #1 or #2 at the end of this tournament, it will be either because of a catastrophic meltdown, or because another team was visited by a miracle. And it's likely they finish #1.


Team USA

2022 finish: Silver; the Americans lost to Team Canada in a 2-1 final. While the Abby Roque scored late in the second period, the Americans were unable to come up with the equalizer and a scoreless third period led to their silver medal finish.

Forwards: Hannah Bilka, Alex Carpenter, Britta Curl, Lacey Eden, Becca Gilmore, Taylor Heise, Gabbie Hughes, Tessa Janecke, Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, Abbey Murphy, Kelly Pannek, Abby Roque, Hayley Scamurra

Defense: Cayla Barnes, Rory Guilday, Savannah Harmon, KK Harvey, Megan Keller, Nicole LaMantia, Lee Stecklein, Haley Winn

Goaltenders: Aerin Frankel, Nicole Hensley, Abbey Levy

Head coach: John Wroblewski took over the team just before the 2022 World Championships and is returning for a second go-round.

Keep an eye on: Taylor Heise was the breakout player of the last tournament, leading all scorers with 7 goals and 11 assists for 18 points. That performance is the only reason we’re not talking more about Hannah Bilka, who was third in the tournament with 5 goals and 7 assists.

KK Harvey was outstanding for Wisconsin this season, but really stepped up her game in the Frozen Four. She is part of a new wave of defenders that are offensively gifted while not giving an inch on defense. She blocks shots, chases down players and is a really adept skater with the ability to place a shot through traffic, make space for herself in the zone and see the whole ice. Harvey is joined on this roster by three national championship-winning teammates, including fellow defender Nicole LaMantia, who’s making her senior national team debut. If she gets that chance to unleash it, watch for LaMantia's slap shot from the blueline.

Size. Two common traits among players who did not make this roster is their size and physical style of play. I think (hope?) that Wroblewski and his staff thought about that when weighing who to put on this roster, but it's something I'll be watching for as the Americans move through the tournament. Along the boards, in front of the net, in transition and at the faceoff circle, I worry about how Team USA will handle themselves and replace what those players brought.

Hensley seems to be the clear number one in goal, but the rest of the field is wide open. Aerin Frankel and Abbey Levy are two very different goalies. Levy is eight inches taller than Frankel. If they both play, it should be interesting to contrast their styles and how they cover the net and the ice in front of them.

How are they going to do?: Like Zoë, I believe this is Canada’s tournament to lose. The US has been unable to sustain success for a few years at this point. After a strong showing to start the Rivalry Series, they lost four straight. I'm in favor of the roster shakeup – they needed to do something different and the year after the Olympics is a good time to start figuring it out. They had camp just before heading to Toronto, which should help with cohesion and chemistry. I think they're still solidly the second place team. Until they prove the ability to consistently beat Canada – particularly in the biggest games – I don’t see how anyone can pick them to take gold.


Team Czechia

2022 finish: Czechia advanced out of Group B in 2022 with a bronze medal finish. Finland was demoted to Group B in part because of Czechia's OT victory over them in the quarterfinals. It was their best-ever result at Worlds and they'll be making their Group A debut this year.

Forwards: Klára Hymlárová, Denisa Křížová, Alena Mills, Kateřina Mrázová, Natálie Mlýnková, Noemi Neubauerová, Kristýna Pátková, Michaela Pejzlová, Tereza Pištěková, Tereza Plosová, Vendula Přibylová, Adéla Šapovalivová, Tereza Vanišová

Defense: Sara Čajanová, Klára Jandušíková,  Karolína Kosinová, Dominika Lásková, Daniela Pejšová, Aneta Tejralová, Andrea Trnková

Goaltenders: Michaela Hesová, Blanka Škodová, Kateřina Zechovská

Head coach: Carla MacLeod, who returns as head coach for the second year in a row.

Keep an eye on: This is the first year since 2014 that the Czech Republic will be going to a senior international tournament without goaltender Klára Peslarová, who has been recovering from a knee injury. It will be interesting to see who gets tapped for the starting role in her absence.  25-year-old Blanka Škodová brings NCAA experience but hasn't had outstanding numbers; 24-year-old Kateřina Zechovská splits starter duties with HC Příbram in the Czech women's league but doesn't have much of an international resume; while Michaela Hesová was the country's starter on a U18 team that finished fifth in Sweden this year. These are big shoes to fill and Czechia will need one of them to step up since they are in the much tougher group this year.

This roster has several PHF players with scoring flair, including Tereza Vanišová who is fresh off her overtime Isobel-Cup-winning goal for the Toronto Six, and the Connecticut Whale's Kateřina Mrázová, who finished the season with 17 points in 19 games (8G, 9A).

How are they going to do?: Being without Peslarová would be challenging on its face, and Czechia is also in a tougher group this year. That said, the bottom of Group A can be a very good place to finish, as long as you can play your way out of the quarterfinals and don't fall to a lower-ranked team like Finland did last year. If Czechia plays their cards right and gets a solid foundation from their netminder, they could appear in the bronze medal game again, but I think a fifth-place finish is probably more realistic (though I would love to be proven wrong!)


Team Switzerland

2022 finish: The Swiss finished fourth despite missing their two top forwards due to COVID. They needed a shootout to beat Japan in the quarterfinals, lost to the Americans in the semifinals and scored just nine goals in seven games – but ended up fourth for the second straight year, their highest finish since winning bronze in 2012.

Forwards: Rahel Enzler, Emma Ingold, Cindy Joray, Sinja Leemann, Lena Marie Lutz, Alina Marti, Alina Müller, Kaleigh Quennec, Alena Lynn Rossel, Lisa Rüedi, Lara Stalder, Laura Zimmermann

Defense: Alessia Baechler, Lara Christen, Sarah Forster, Janine Hauser, Nadine Hofstetter, Shannon Sigrist, Nicole Vallario, Stefanie Wetli

Goaltenders: Andrea Brändli, Saskia Maurer, Caroline Spies

Head coach: Colin Muller returns to lead the Swiss team. He became an assistant on the team in February 2019 and was promoted to head coach by July of that year.

Keep an eye on: Sinja Leemann stepped up as the roster was decimated by illness last tournament and tied Stalder for the team lead with four points. The 20-year-old is playing in her fourth senior tournament and has shown tremendous promise. She led the ZSC Lions Frauen to a league title with 15 goals and 21 assists. She and teammate Lisa Rüedi tied for fourth in the league with 36 points.

They were 3 for 30 on the power play in Denmark and really need to be able to take advantage of those opportunities when they come. Andrea Brändli allowed just one power play goal against in the tournament and she's going to need to be a key part of anything they put together.

Lara Stalder is probably the most underrated forward in the tournament. She is dynamic, smart, fast and so talented in transition. She's a solid, heavy-in-her-skates center who can muscle the puck away from defenders and hold off opponents looking to knock her from the puck. She's also the kind of player that makes everyone around her better. Alina Müller is a little flashier and more familiar to a lot of people, but Stalder is at least as good, if not better and the two of them together drive this team. Having a few more options like Leeman help spread the scoring around and take some of the top defensive line attention off them, which will only serve Switzerland well.

How are they going to do?: In the 2022 tournament where a bunch of teams turned in surprising (good and bad) performances, the Swiss still held on to fourth place in really difficult circumstances. Assuming their full roster gets a chance to compete for the length of the tournament, I like their chances of staying here in the top group. It would take a near perfect tournament for them to push into third, but they do have the talent to do it. I think it’s more likely that they’ll be trying to hold off Japan, Finland and Sweden, who all know they can be better than they have shown in recent years.


Team Japan

2022 finish: 5th overall, following a shootout win over Finland in the 5th place game which demoted Finland to Group B.

Forwards: Yoshino Enomoto, Remi Koyama, Makoto Ito, Mei Miura, Chisato Miyazaki, Riri Noro, Rio Noro, Akane Shiga, Chihiro Suzuki, Haruka Toko, Rui Ukita, Yumeka Wajima, Hikaru Yamashita

Defense: Ayaka Hitosato, Akane Hosoyamada, Shiori Koike, Kohane Sato, Kanami Seki, Aoi Shiga, Shiori Yamashita

Goaltenders: Riko Kawaguchi, Kiku Kobayashi, Miyuu Masuhara

Head coach: Yuji Iizuka is still head coach; he's been with the Japanese women's national team for that role and other roles since 2007.

Keep an eye on: Miyuu Masuhara was last year's starter in goal. She pitched a 61 save shutout, plus three saves in the shootout, to triumph over Finland last year in the fifth-place game; in an outing where Japan only got 16 shots on goal, she stole one for her team at a critical moment. She is also coming off of a silver medal performance at the World University Games in Lake Placid in January. Masuhara plays big – though she is just 5'2" – and will be the key to Japan's success in the knockout stage.

This team returns a lot of pieces from last year's roster but also adds new faces and continues the trend of Japan looking to a younger generation of players. Haruka Toko was their best offensive player last year, scoring 6 points and leading with 23 shots on goal. She had 27 points (9G, 18A) with Linköping HC in the SDHL regular season this year.

One reason Japan's offense has been so poor at this level has been their inability to win faceoffs. If they can improve with small details like that, even if they don't dramatically increase their shot totals, they'll start getting more quality chances towards the net and have a better chance of not letting games get away from them.

How are they going to do?: I'd expect to see Japan in the fifth place game again trying to hold this position. They competed well in close games last year largely thanks to strong goaltending and that should be their recipe for success again this year.

– ZH

Group B

Team Finland

2022 finish: The Finns were relegated to group B thanks to Czechia’s first-ever bronze medal. That leaves them fifth and, I’d guess, with plenty to prove this year.

Forwards: Anna-Kaisa Antti-Roiko, Oona Havana, Julia Liikala, Anni Montonen, Petra Nieminen, Jenniina Nylund, Emmi Rakkolainen, Sofianna Sundelin, Noora Tulus, Viivi Vainikka, Sanni Vanhanen, Emilia Vesa, Kira Yrjänen

Defense: Jenni Hiirikoski, Sini Karjalainen, Aino Karppinen, Nelli Laitinen, Rosa Lindstedt, Krista Parkkonen, Sanni Rantala, Ronja Savolainen

Goaltenders: Sanni Ahola, Emilia Kyrkkö, Anni Keisala

Head coach: Juuso Toivola took over the head coaching job from longtime coach Pasi Mustonen when the latter left the Olympics after one game for a family health emergency. Toivola had been Mustonen’s assistant since 2014. This will be his second World Championship.

Keep an eye on: Sanni Vanhanen led the Finland U18 team in scoring at their World Championships in January. At 17, she's already a veteran of international play with the senior team. She does a good job of creating space to make plays and will be an important part of this team going forward.

It is both mind-blowing that Jenni Hiirkoski is on this roster and absolutely not at all surprising that she would not be kept off it. It’s been just two weeks since she was hospitalized after getting her throat slashed by a skate while playing for Luleå in Sweden. We already knew she was relentless and fearless, but this takes it to a whole new level.

How are they going to do?: I'd imagine they'll be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. This roster is grounded in established, veteran talent, but has a couple of the most exciting young players of the past few seasons. Their trio of goaltenders are young, talented and used to facing a high volume of shots, which will help in the later rounds, but might require some adjustment in group play. I think the'’ve been stumbling through the way the international game has been changing and got stuck assuming they could stay the same and get the same results. Hopefully the knock down to Group B has shaken them out of their complacency and we'll see a bit of a shift in their performance. They need to be smart and aggressive with the puck if they're going to move back up to fighting for a medal.

– NH

Team Sweden

2022 finish: Sweden made the quarterfinals out of Group B last year but unfortunately drew Canada as their first-round opponent. They fell just 3-0, thanks to a 54-save performance by Emma Söderberg in goal, and then narrowly lost a placement game to Japan to settle into 7th place.

Forwards: Lova Blom, Josefin Bouveng, Oliva Carlsson, Ebba Hedqvist, Sara Hjalmarsson, Lisa Johansson, Lina Ljungblom, Sofie Lundin, Hanna Olsson, Fanny Rask, Hilda Svensson, Hanna  Thuvik, Felizia Wikner-Zienkiewicz

Defense: Linnéa Andersson, Paula Bergström, Josefine Holmgren, Mira Jungåker, Anna Kjellbin, Nathalie Lidman, Maja Nylén-Persson, Annie Silén

Goaltenders: Sara Grahn, Tindra Holm, Emma Söderberg

Head coach: Ulf Lundberg returns as head coach for the third straight year.

Keep an eye on: Defender Mira Jungåker was one of the best players for Sweden at U18s in January; she has a huge shot and relentless forecheck. At just 17, she isn't even new to the senior level tournament. While her scoring for HV71 in the SDHL dropped off this year after her big 2021-22 season, she's still playing a smart two-way game that creates sustained puck possession for her team. Her HV71 teammate Hilda Svensson was second in the SDHL this year in scoring (9G, 13A) and is making her national team debut on the merit of that performance.

Sweden brings 3 strong goaltenders to this tournament who are capable of playing lights out games against any team. While Söderberg is the probable #1, Long Island University's Holm may get a start or two as well, and veteran Grahn has tons of international experience and should be able to step in if needed. These are netminders that the Swedes can play confidently in front of and focus on generating offense.

How are they going to do?: That placement game loss to Japan probably still stings; Sweden allowed a late goal and squandered power play opportunities to tie it up. This is a team that was actually relegated to Division IA in 2019 but ultimately ended up back at the top level in 2022, replacing Russia, who have been banned from IIHF competition. They'll be looking to prove they still belong at this level by playing strong in their group and drawing a better matchup than Canada in the quarterfinals. I think they can play better than they did in 2022 and make things interesting.

– ZH

Team Hungary

2022 finish: Hungary finished 8th overall in their second year at the top division; they lost 12-1 to the United States in the quarterfinals but played some close games in the group stage (including a shootout loss to Sweden and a 1-0 loss to Denmark). They advanced to the knockout stage narrowly on the strength of their goal differential.

Forwards: Réka Dabasi, Fanni Garát-Gasparics, Tamara Gondos, Imola Horváth, Alexandra Huszak, Kinga Jókai Szilágyi, Emma Kreisz, Regina Metzler, Zsofia Pazmandi, Alexandra Rónai, Míra Seregély, Laura Strobl, Petra  Szamosfalvi, Hayley Williams

Defense: Taylor Baker, Lilla Faggyas, Franciska Kiss-Simon, Sarah Knee, Fruzsina Mayer, Bernadett Németh, Lotti Odnoga, Enikő Tóth

Goaltenders: Bianka Bogáti, Anikó Németh, Zsuzsa Révész

Head coach: Pat Cortina returns for the second straight year and in Hungary's third straight year at the top division.

Keep an eye on: Fanni Garát-Gasparics is coming off of a strong season with the Metropolitan Riveters where she had 7 goals and 7 assists in 24 games. Anikó Németh is likely to retain her starting role as the veteran and she's a very fun goaltender to watch – both mobile and able to confidently track shooters on the rush. Forward Míra Seregély had 11 goals and 12 assists this season with the University of Maine, which constitutes a bit of a breakout season for the sophomore.

This roster has physicality and speed even when they struggle to create offense; they generate shots easily but have a pretty low conversion rate (just 6.8%, a tournament low last year). Their main takeaway from their performance at this level last year should be to take some of the energy they bring along the boards and in the middle of the ice, and make sure it converts to chances in the slot and around the net.

How are they going to do?: As in previous years, many of these players play together on either HK Budapest or MAC Budapest and should have an easy familiarity with each other. Their finish in 2022 was conditional on being able to keep games tight and match the energy of their opponents, even in losses, and they'll want to repeat that formula this year. There's a ton of upside with this Hungarian team, though it's likely they'll be fighting to make the playoffs and not be relegated in a tougher Group B than previous years.

– ZH

Team Germany

2022 finish: Tanja Eisenschmid scored with a single second on the clock to give Germany a 3-2 win over Denmark. The Danes went from a possible quarterfinal berth to relegated out of the top division, and Germany finished the tournament ninth.

Forwards: Anne Bartsch, Nina Christof, Marie Delabre, Nicola Eisenschmid, Franzisca Feldmeier, Celina Haider, Bernadette Karpf, Laura Kluge, Svenja Voight, Theresa Wagner, Sonja Weidenfelder, Lilli Welcke, Luisa Welcke

Defense: Tabea Botthof, Daria Gleißner, Ronja Hark, Nina Jobst-Smith, Charlott Schaffrath, Carina Stroebel, Heidi Strompf

Goaltenders: Sandra Abstreiter, Johanna May, Chiara Schultes

Head coach: Thomas Schädler took the helm in 2021. This is his third World Championship as head coach.

Keep an eye on: Sandra Abstreiter was one of the most dependable and successful goalies in the NCAA throughout her career at Providence. She is a game-changer and elevates Germany to a team that can steal some games and give opponents more of a fight than they might have expected.

The Welcke sisters were two of the top four scorers for the University of Maine this season. The team struggled overall, but they were standouts who adjusted well to the pace and physicality of the college game and look like they have a lot of potential to be impact players for Germany.

Nina Jobst-Smith is a solid defender who’s adept at inching forward into the offensive zone and getting open for shots through traffic. She needs to be smart about her physicality and not get pulled into penalties, but she can be an impact player on every part of the ice.

How are they going to do?: There’s a lot of opportunity to be had in Group B for whichever team is willing to step up and take it. I think we'll see more from the Germans than we’ve seen before. They've taken steps forward and have the kind of solid defending and goaltending that they can really build on. It gives them the cushion to be more daring on offense, which they have to do if they want to move up. It's likely they finish eighth or ninth, but I also think this group is wide open.

– NH

Team France

2022 finish: They defeated Norway 4-1 to win Division I Group A on home ice in Angers, sending them back to the top level for the first time since 2019.

Forwards: Chloé Aurard, Jade Barbirati, Lore Baudrit, Lisa Cedele, Margot Desvignes, Estelle Duvin, Betty Jouanny, Manon Le Scodan, Emma Nonnenmacher, Clara Rozier, Anaé Simon

Defense: Léa Berger, Perrine Lavorel, Sophie Leclerc, Athéna Locatelli, Louanne Mermier, Marie-Pierre Pelissou, Lucie Quarto, Mia Väänänen

Goaltenders: Justine Crousy Théode, Caroline Lambert, Margaux Mameri

Head coach: Grégory Tarlé has been the head coach for France since 2014.

Keep an eye on: Lore Baudrit is one of – if not the – biggest players in women’s hockey. She's 6'3" and uses her size and long reach to cover a lot of ice. She controls the puck well in close, but excels at using her wingspan to protect it and put it out of the reach of defenders and give her a lot of time and space to make things happen.

Part of what made Chloé Aurard so dangerous at Northeastern is her speed and the way she was able to read opposing defenses. She’s really adept at crashing the back post to tap in the puck – she and Switzerland's Alina Müller had this play down to an art, weaving around defenders that looked like they were standing still and finding each other in transition. France will look to capitalize on Aurard's speed in a similar way. She was dangerous shorthanded in college, scoring four goals that way this season. Aurard finished the season with 20 goals and 34 assists, good for eighth best in the country.

How are they going to do?: Like the Germans, I think there's room for France to move up. Everyone above them in the group has questions they need to answer and changes to make, so if France can play their game, they'll seize opportunities when others falter. They have to play smart and not be intimidated and take advantage of the fact that they aren’t a familiar opponent. They have to find a way to take the defensive focus off Aurard and give her room to work. I think they’ll end up somewhere between 7th and relegation.

– NH