On Friday, Team USA continued their offensive dominance, putting up 9 against Switzerland, including two power play goals by KK Harvey. Switzerland did score a goal and occasionally generated real chances when Müller and Stalder were on the ice together, but they couldn't mount much sustained offensive pressure.
Finland vs. Germany was a great matchup where Finland really showed their defensive skill level. The scoreline shows how much Germany has improved recently, as they were playing the same unified team game that they played against Sweden, constantly battling for pucks and trying to play a possession-driven, simple game. Unfortunately, Finland was putting together a complete game at a much higher level. They kept Germany stuck along the boards as much as possible and prevented them from moving freely up the middle of the ice, forcing them to dump the puck into the offensive zone, and Finland usually had Jenni Hiirikoski back behind the net to retrieve it and start a breakout the other way. Germany didn't really have an answer for that offensively, and it showed, but they still held Finland to 3 hard-earned goals. The first, by Rosa Lindstedt, was a power play goal, but it did come from an abbreviated 2-on-1 with Petra Nieminen who dished a perfect pass. The second, by Emilia Vesa, was a pickup from a scramble in the crease, and Viivi Vainikka sealed the deal in the third period by circling the net and burying it behind Johanna May. Anni Keisala earned the shutout for Finland with 16 saves. May made 40.
Later, Canada triumphed over Czechia 5-1. Marie-Philip Poulin had two goals in the game, the first of which was her 100th with the national team. Czechia had actually tied the game at 1 late in the first, with a shot by Natálie Mlýnková that might have looked harmless, but it fluttered five-hole on Ann-Renée Desbiens. But less than 30 seconds of clock time later, Renata Fast rocketed one from the point past Blanka Škodová, and Canada would go to the locker room with the lead. Team Canada doing Team Canada things, essentially. Turnbull and Stacey also scored. Poulin's second was a thing of beauty; she effortlessly skated through the middle of the ice, dipped her shoulder, went backhand to forehand, and buried it for her 101st as a member of Team Canada.
Saturday's first game, Sweden vs. Hungary, was a physical, high-scoring affair that ultimately saw Sweden come out on top for their first win in Group B. Lina Ljungblom had four goals, including a hat trick in the first period – quick shots from three distinct areas of the ice which took Anikó Németh by surprise. Her third goal turned out to be the go-ahead goal, as Hungary clawed their way back to tie it with two goals in less than two minutes. Ljungblom's no-hesitation rocket from the top of the left circle on the power play would stand as the game-winner. Linnea Andersson added a goal from the blueline before the first period could even conclude. Not done yet, Ljungblom scored her fourth in the second period, and Hilda Svensson continued her scoring tear by adding one in the third.
Team Hungary got worn down throughout the game despite having multiple opportunities to score on the player advantage. The SDHL, where many Swedish players spend their hockey seasons, has been allowing body checking this season for the first time, but the IIHF rules still don't permit it and for Sweden to rack up so many contact-related penalties in a game where they maintained a clear advantage is concerning, and probably frustrating for coach Ulf Lundberg. With a short turnaround to their game against Finland tomorrow, they'll be hoping to play a different kind of hockey if they want any chance of keeping that game close.
Canada blanked Japan 5-0, with goals from Sarah Fillier (2), Sarah Nurse, Brianne Jenner, and Natalie Spooner. Japan was only credited with a single shot until over halfway through the second period, and they eventually pulled Miyuu Masuhara at 8:48 of the second period to rest her after making 30 saves on 33 shots. Riku Kawaguchi still had to make 24 saves. Emerance Maschmeyer earned the shutout with 11.
Two teams are being relegated instead of just one at the end of the group stage, so France and Hungary are currently on the outside looking in. Sweden's margin over Hungary isn't enormous, but it should be enough. The Swedish team is looking ahead to their game against Finland, which will be a tall order, to say the least, but their last game of group play is one they can probably win, against France. Both of Hungary's games will be uphill battles as they meet Finland as well, plus Germany. Both teams have been fighting to stay in the top division, but Sweden's 6-2 result head-to-head with Hungary all but guarantees their position going forward, especially since it's unlikely Hungary can string together two wins in their remaining Group B schedule.
Sunday April 9
- Finland vs. Sweden - 11:00 AM Eastern
- USA vs. Czechia - 3:00 PM Eastern
- Germany vs. France - 7:00 PM Eastern
Monday April 10
- Hungary vs. Finland - 11:00 AM Eastern
- Switzerland vs. Japan - 3:00 PM Eastern
- Canada vs. USA - 7:00 PM Eastern
Tuesday April 11
- Hungary vs. Germany - 11:00 AM Eastern
- Sweden vs. France - 3:00 PM Eastern
- Czechia vs. Switzerland - 7:00 PM Eastern
(Photo: Andrea Cardin/IIHF)