Canada 6, Switzerland 0
I know Canada won and all, but I just want to talk about Switzerland. I'm being a bit too much of a softie, but if you had to be in the mixed zone talking to teenagers who'd lost every game in a home tournament where they know that things like the support for future growth of the sport in their country hinged on their performance, you'd also be very invested. All of which is to say, to this Swiss team: "You're doing great, sweetie!"
After a devastating loss to Slovakia yesterday, Switzerland came back today and played almost exactly the game coach Melanie Häfliger wanted them to play. Almost only because they didn't win. They wanted to make life difficult for Canada, be annoying and do everything they could to be pesky and frustrating. They held Canada to their second-lowest shot total of the tournament, took fewer penalties, didn't allow a power play goal and kept them to their lowest goal total yet.
The Swiss tied a tournament record for fewest shots in a game, with three, but this is also the closest result between Switzerland and Canada in the history of this tournament.
Talina Benderer was absolutely outstanding in net, stopping 48 shots while the defense racked up 19 blocks. They clogged up the middle, forcing Canada to the perimeter where assistant coach Steph McKeough said they worked to keep the defense on the ice for long stretches so they could take advantage of their fatigue. Switzerland forced Canada out of their comfort zone and made them spend a lot of time playing catch and cycling.
For their part, Canada adapted well and didn't seem too thrown when they had to find new ways to get pucks to the net. They are a versatile and talented group where the players feel comfortable all over the ice, so switching from high to low isn't going to throw them, but honestly, any time you're facing Canada and they don't just fully exert their will on you, you consider it something of a win.
Chloe Primerano continued her absolutely ridiculous tournament, adding three assists to take her past her coach, Tara Watchorn, for second-most points by a defender in this tournament.
Canada advances to the semifinal on Saturday where they will face Czechia at 7:00 AM Eastern time.
What We Learned:
- Never good enough – There are some players that no matter the outcome, are thinking of what they can do better or improve on. After a 48-save performance that was quite literally the best Switzerland has ever done against Canada, Talina Benderer did not want any praise and claimed she did not play well. She's certainly no the only one, but it's always both fascinating and heartbreaking to see a young player come to this conclusion. I hope she gets time to really soak in what she accomplished tonight and allows herself some grace. She played an amazing game.
- Importance of depth and fitness – I found it really interesting that some of Canada's strategy in facing the stout defense the Swiss were putting up was to literally just wait them out and tire them until the could take advantage. It's really smart and something they can afford to do with the depth of their lines and how fit their players are. The way that US and Canadian players are committed to hockey basically full time in comparison to players from a team like Switzerland comes out in situations like that. It's also a really good reminder that strategy isn't all x's and o's and overwrought ideas. Sometimes it's just "take advantage of them being tired."
- Switzerland D Alena Rossel – Defense was the key to this game and the alternate captain and top line defender put her body on the line, led by example and put in a ton of minutes. This team needed to buy in to what Häfliger was selling and Rossel showed that they did.
- Canada D Makayla Watson – It was nice to see some players other than the ones that have been peppering the scoresheet step up as the team looked to find what would work here and cycled the puck. Watson was active from the top of the zone and got involved in the play more thanks to the way that Swizerland defended but still got pucks to the net and prevented breakouts.
"This game will make us better for Saturday, We can learn something and the next step is to take this energy and speed and everything they gained from this moment. But first we have to relax a little bit tomorrow." – Switzerland coach coach Melanie Häfliger
"It was pretty tough yesterday. We asked a lot of the team. The team is alive, the fire is here. We learned a lot from this game. I'm proud." – Häfliger
"Canada is a pretty good team. They have such strong individual players. They have programs and schools and everything that we don't have here. For our young girls it was so important what they're are fighting for. It was important that we could challenge them a bit. Usually I hate to lose, but this is okay." – Häfliger
"Is it? That's nice, but when we have a win for Switzerland, I'll be happier." – Häfliger on learning it was the closest score ever between her country and Canada at U18s
"I told the girls before this game that this game will make them better for our Saturday game. Next step is to take this energy and speed and what we learned ..." – Häfliger
"We just had to keep pushing and it would come. We had a lot of shots, but they had a great goaltender in there. We kept it going, and it went well for us." – Canada D Chloe Primerano
"It's just my teammates helping me out. I don't really look at individual accolades. I'm just worried about the team and what we can do in our next game." – Primerano on passing her coach in points
"We just had to move the puck a bit more. They were doing well keeping us outside. Being able to adjust in this game can help us in the next game. We have to adapt. Us doing a lot of switches and movement helps us a lot as we were pushed to the outside." – Primerano
"I think that score was a little bit deceptive. I think the Czechs are a really good team and our goalie made some really key saves to start the game. [Rhyah Stewart] kept the momentum going in our favor as we got in a little bit of penalty trouble and we were able to bury some opportunistic chances short handed. I think were looking forward to a really good matchup." – Canada assistant coach Stef McKeough on facing Czechia in the semifinals after beating them 8-1 in group play
"They did a really good job blocking the middle. It made us have some really good O-zone possession and we tried to just wear down the line that was out. Good offense is hard work and I think the Swiss made us work for it tonight." – McKeough
United States 4, Germany 0
Josie St. Martin scored twice in the opening minutes of the game and those proved to be enough to push the Americans into the semifinal round. The game ended up not living up to the promise the two quick goals seemed to imply, but it was a win when they needed it and now the team gets another off day before the medal round games.
St. Martin's first goal came on a fluke from behind the net as she looked to pass to the slot but the puck bounced off the goalie and deflected back into the net. It was the kind of bad luck the Germans have had all tournament and a bit of help the Americans didn't really need. St. Martin doubled the lead a few minutes later when Jordyn Petrie won a defensive zone faceoff. St. Martin picked up the puck and raced up the ice, out-skating the defense. She moved the puck to her backhand and flipped it into the net to make it 2-0.
Early in the second, Morgan McGathey won the faceoff and immediately fed Haley Box in front of the net. The puck had some movement, but Box batted it out of the air and into the net to make it 3-0. Captain Maggie Scannell scored the final goal on a sharp top-shelf shot. She seemed to be looking for a pass but realized she had space to take and she stepped in to snipe the goal.
The US advances to play Finland on Saturday at 11:00 AM Eastern time. The winner will face the winner of Canada vs. Czechia for a gold medal. The loser will play for bronze.
What We Learned:
- Unfamiliarity can be a bonus – The US and Germany haven't faced off often at this level before and while the Germans know that the US is a top nation in women's hockey, they didn't have years of memories to contend with. I think going in fresh helped them here – there were no preconceived notions about what Germany could do or should do in a game like this. Much like in the third quarterfinal with Switzerland and Canada, a great goaltending performance was crucial and the team really bought in on what they could do to try and trip up their opponent. They kept the Americans to the perimeter, did an absolutely spectacular job of forcing them into quick decisions and got in the way of a whole lot of shots and passes.
- Room to grow – I was skeptical of the American team after the first two periods of their first game, but felt as though that might have been a blip and was happy with the way we'd seen them play in ensuing games. The younger and less experienced players got a lot more playing time in this one and the lines were in constant flux, but I don't think that really accounts for the sort of mental mistakes that we saw in this game from the Americans as they seemed to shoot when they should have passes and passed when they should have shot. The shots they did put toward net felt a little aimless and often went right into the goaltender's stomach. They were taking low probability shots and hitting legs, sticks and skates or getting blocked. Overall I think they just need to make quicker and smarter decisions.
- USA F Jordyn Petrie – She and St. Martin showed up great chemistry as Petrie assisted on both St. Martin's goals. She took on a somewhat bigger role and seemed to be more comfortable with her place on the team in this game. She was good from the faceoff circle, made smart plays and passes as the US was getting otherwise sloppy and wasn't afraid to put the puck to net on her own.
- Germany G Miriam Siebert – She played a massive game against a top-tier opponent after having not appeared in net all tournament. Her counterpart, Hannah Loist, was outstanding in her earlier appearances, meaning Siebert came in cold for her first start and had big skates to fill. She was calm under pressure, moved well in her crease, didn't get fooled by pucks in traffic and generally put in a stellar performance in a situation that was pretty unfamiliar and much different than what Germany has been used to in D1A.
"I'm excited. I think we have a really good, cohesive group with a lot of people who can do a lot of different things. It's nice to have a toolbox like that." – USA coach Liz Keady Norton
"I was practicing that a little bit on the power play, just kind of as another option. So the bounce went my way, and I'm thankful for that. But it started with my linemates." – USA F Josie St. Martin, describing her first goal
"I think we need to get more people in front of the net. We were pretty relentless and we were moving the puck pretty well, so that's good to see." – St. Martin
"Everyone has been contributing no matter their role. It's been great to see that." – St. Martin
"We look at not just results. We battled in every situation. Better system structure. We're just doing a better job. I think it's from experience, but it's about the hard work the player has put in." – Germany coach Jeff MacLeod
"I'm proud pf my team because we did a really good job. It's a tough game, but we did our best. It is really important to us that our goaltenders can keep us in a game." – Germany captain Martina Schrick
"To always be positive and believe in us and never give up." – Schrick on what they can take from this game