Czechia 6, Germany 1
Czechia bounced back with a much-needed win on Tuesday and did so in convincing fashion. Captain Adéla Šapovalivová felt like there was still work to be done, but her coach Dušan Andrašovský said she is too hard on herself and was happy with the way the game progressed.
With the win, Czechia secures the third spot in Group A and will play the loser of the US vs. Sweden game on Wednesday. It's certainly not where they hoped they'd be, but they also know that this is basically a whole new tournament for them and they have an opportunity to turn things around and make the week a success with a better performance in the knockout rounds.
The Czechs got on the board early, with a quick goal from Adéla Fromová in the opening two minutes. Not only was scoring quickly great for the team's confidence, but the goal was the product of good off-puck movement and cycling through when scoring lanes closed. It was a total team goal and a nice shot from midrange from Fromová.
A few minutes later, Adéla Pánková scored with a snap of a shot to Loist's glove side on a breakaway thanks to a timely poke check by Julie Jebousková. In one final rush of the first period, Tereza Plosová fought off a few defenders to push a backhand pass to Lucie Velinská, who tapped it in at the back door, giving Czechia a 3-0 lead heading into the intermission.
German goalie Hannah Loist came up big in the second, making 17 saves, and the Germans killed three power plays to keep Czechia off the board. In the final minute of the frame, while playing four-on-four, Anastasia Gruß won an offensive zone faceoff, sending the puck to the stick of Elisa Pietschmann. She quickly dished the puck to Hanna Hoppe, who was alone on the blue line and let rip a slap shot that quickly found the back of the net to put Germany on the board and make it 3-1.
The third period belonged to Šapovalivová as she reeled off three goals to net a final frame natural hat trick. The first was a redirection tip from a Madlen Chladová shot from distance. The second came from crashing the net at the back post. She saved the prettiest for last with a nimble bit of skating and puck handling around a defender before flicking a wrister at the far post to give Czechia a 6-1 win.
What We Learned:
- Trickle down growth – This game featured two federations that are in very different places of growth for women's hockey. The Czechs have made massive strides at the senior level in just a few years, but we're not necessarily seeing that play out with the U18s yet. A minimum of a bronze feels like the expectation from the senior Czech women, but if this squad is going to finish above fifth, it will have to pull a pretty big upset. I'm unsure if there's a right or wrong (or better or less successful) approach to growth and development, but Czechia started at the top and I think is hoping that the senior team success leads to more girls playing hockey and a growth of the sport at younger ages, which will lead to better U18 teams in the future. Jeff MacLeod is still in his first year as the senior team coach with Germany and today he talked about a five to ten year plan for getting more younger girls into the sport. They're going to have to do a more grassroots push without medals or high level success to point to, but it's promising that it's on his radar and part of the plan with him at the helm of the women's program. No matter the approach, this game had me thinking about development and having a wider view of what success looks like at any federation. It seems obvious that if Czechia is going to continue to field a successful senior squad, they need to build up the youth program. Right now, their development is happening at college age as players play in North America. That's too late for the U18 level and I feel like this team's performance here is highlighting a gap Czechia is going to need to find ways to fill if the sport is going to continue to grow back home.
- Divisional difference – The gap has closed among the teams in the top division, but there still seems to be quite a wide chasm between the top tier in and D1A. I do think there's something awesome about how close the teams in D1A are and that we see a different team get promoted regularly. Their last tournament had narrow margins and any one of a number of teams could have eked out the title and earned the bump up. But once they get to the top, it feels like relegation back down is almost inevitable right now. Even in games where I've felt Germany played well and executed their plans, the closest outcome was today's five-goal defeat. I'm guilty of only focusing on this top IIHF tier, but I do think we need to use a wider lens when we're talking about the growth of the game and the future of the sport.
- Germany F Hanna Hoppe – She has been an absolute workhorse for this team, looking nearly 75 minutes in three games played. She has the team's only goal of the tournament and I love that her explanation for it was that she just saw the pass and shot. She wasn't trying anything fancy and I'd bet she was getting a little frustration out. The team needs to put more of those kinds of shots on net. She was all over the ice, seemed to never tire and was still pushing at the end even as Šapovalivová put on a one-woman show.
- Czechia F Tereza Plosová – In talking about the U18 players who spent time with the senior team, Andrašovský specifically mentioned the work Plosová has put in to improve and I feel like that has really shone through in this tournament. She's been a massive playmaker and feels a little like the engine that makes the rest of the offense go. She uses her size to both protect the puck and keep off defenders, but also has a bit extra in her stride to give herself space. She knows when to go to the net herself and when to dish the puck. I really like her as a playmaker who seems what can develop and ensures the puck gets on the right stick.
"Things for us are getting better as a team. The score doesn't show that right now, but there are things that we are happy with it." – Germany head coach Jeff MacLeod
"For us, we're making some plans for the next 5-10 years. We know that we're a little bit behind and we have work to do. We have to make some changes in German hockey to have female hockey at the younger ages, which we don't have. We need to add that." – MacLeod
"That was a good feeling for the team and for me. I think our next games will be better." – Germany F Hanna Hoppe
"It's really important. We have confidence right now because this was an easier game. We are so happy." – Czechia F Tereza Plosová
"It's a big game for us because we have to build confidence. When we scored quickly, that was important. After that our confidence grew." – Czechia head coach Dušan Andrašovský
"It wasn't a shot, it was a throw! It was funny, but it was still a goal so I was happy that I scored." – Czechia F Adéla Šapovalivová
"It's really nice that we won, but we didn't play so well. We were slow in battles and we didn't have good passes. I think we have to do better if we want to win a quarterfinal." – Šapovalivová
Canada 10, Finland 0
Chloe Primerano and Caitlin Kraemer tied a tournament record for two quickest goals by lighting the lamp seven seconds apart in the fourth minute of play on Tuesday night and that set the tone for how the night would go.
Canada needed overtime to fend off Finland in the semifinals of the 2023 tournament, but the Finnish team just hasn't been able to find the same level here. They won their first two games and are in good position heading into the quarterfinals, but have to be a little worried about how thoroughly they were shut down in this game. They couldn't must anything resembling offense or much in the way to slow down Canada. Neither the players nor coach Mira Kuisma had much to say in the mixed zone. I asked if this felt like a snowball that gets rolling and got nods of acknowledgement. This was was a dominating butt-kicking and the Finns had to slog through 60 minutes of it knowing they had no answers.
Primerano became the first defender to ever tally a hat trick in the U18 Women's World Championship. Kraemer buried a trio of her own and she's well on her way to beating Marie Philip Poulin's record for goals at the U18 tournament. Of course, MPP did it over three tournaments and Kraemer will be doing it at two.
Stryker Zablocki added three assists in the game and Emma Venusio and Abby Stonehouse each had helpers to bring them to six each on the tournament, tied for the tournament lead. Sienna D'Alessandro added two goals, bringing her tournament total to five.
Despite this loss, Finland takes second place in group A and will face the winner of the Slovakia vs. Switzerland game on Wednesday afternoon.
What We Learned:
- Being ahead – The Canadians are so cohesive and playing so well that they're getting in-game objectives and working on smaller game-within-the-game details. It's truly a measure of their talent and of the coaching staff that this team is rolling so well by its third game of the tournament that they can hone in on fine details and specific plays to continue to make the team and players better.
- Fragile balance – It feels like this Finland group is at a little bit of a tipping point. Ema Ekoluoma has definitely emerged as a big name for Finland this week and her speed is as good as her scoring, but this team is suffering from not having some of the experienced players that had played several years at this level. Their growth is slower than we'd like to see and their fortunes are tied to having a couple of breakout players that can take control of a game. I think this week shows that they need the whole team to take a few steps forward and not just a couple of players if they're going to be able to contend for medals.
- Canada F Caitlin Kraemer – But not for the reason you're thinking. Finland was never able to establish anything on Tuesday and one of the main reasons is that they never really had the puck. Kraemer was 16-5 from the faceoff dot. I think faceoffs are one of the most underrated but most crucial part of the women's game and Kraemer is very good at them. Overall, she's been in the circle for Canada 52 times and is 38-14 in three games.
- Finland D Tuuli Tallinen – In a really mentally tough game, she was constantly talking to her teammates and working to keep them engaged and not frustrated. She looked exhausted in the mixed zone and was at a loss for words, but she seemed to do a good job of not letting that show during the game.
"Our habits. Just playing the way we want to play. Quality over quantity shots, which paid off." – Canada F Caitlin Kraemer
"Her ability to see the ice and see the space that she has and take it."– Kraemer on what makes Primerano so special
"We don't want to just throw shots at the net just because we can. We want to make sure they are grade-A chances." – Kraemer
"We've got a pretty humble group. We know what our final goal is. Our returners have done a great job. We've been in this position before. We know it's going to be tough, but we're going to stick together and we're going to push through." – Kraemer
"She's an amazing player and it's super-fun watching her out there. Every time, every game, she's always doing something new." – Canada D Chloe Primerano on Kraemer
"Playing more defense and picking my spots better. Sometimes I get a little too excited." – Primerano on what things she's working on
"A lot of energy from the get-go. We've tasked them with some systems and different areas of the game and different concepts and they're trying them all." – Canada assistant coach Vicky Sunohara
"I really appreciate they are team players. They score these huge goals but come back and they're thanking and high-fiving others that set them up. I love the fact that they're great players but they're very selfless, too." – Sunohara on Kraemer and Primerano
"We had a game plan, but we couldn't play how we wanted to play. Canada was really good and we just couldn't do anything." – Finland coach Mira Kuisma
"I just said that we have to forget this game. It doesn't matter what the result was, because the next game is our important game." – Kuisma
"They are so fast and have really awesome talent. They're are just different from others." – Finland captain Tuuli Tallinen
We have been posting postgame mixed zone interviews from every game for paid subscribers at our top two levels, but have had some technical difficulties with wifi at times getting everything to upload in a timely fashion. Here are two videos that didn't make it into our paid post last night: Team Canada assistant coach Vicky Sunohara and defender Chloe Primerano.
- In this tournament format, everyone makes the quarterfinals.
- Team USA has triumphed 4-0 over Sweden in their final game of group play, setting up their quarterfinal matchups. Team USA will play Germany, and Sweden will play Czechia.
- At 10:00 AM Eastern, Switzerland will face Slovakia in their final game of group play. The winner will face Finland in the quarterfinals. The loser will have the pleasure of playing Canada.
- We will bring you a short quarterfinals preview later tonight.
(Photo: Nicole Haase)