2024 IIHF Women's World Championship: Day 5
- 7 min read

2024 IIHF Women's World Championship: Day 5

2024 IIHF Women's World Championship: Day 5 by Zoë Hayden

Sweden 6, Japan 2

It was all Sweden in the early going, with Hilda Svensson and Lina Ljungblom using their speed to get chances on Riko Kawaguchi – but it was a whole team effort for Sweden, as Japan had struggled to possess the puck. An early Sweden power play led to the first goal as Ebba Hebqvist fired from the center point through a screen and beat Kawaguchi while she was without her stick.

The second goal followed from a defensive zone turnover by Makoto Ito, who tried to clear it out of the zone on her backhand and instead it ended up on Josefin Bouveng's stick. She was able to collect it, hold it, and fired it, again from the middle, to beat Kawaguchi through some bodies.

Japan got an opportunity on special teams from a roughing call on Hanna Thuvik that emerged from another crazy scramble in front of Kawaguchi, but they weren't able to hold the zone. Back at even strength, Ito had a breakaway chance at getting the goal back, but Emma Söderberg stuck with her and made the save. Sweden got yet another power play, but didn't capitalize before the end of the period and went to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.

Haruka Toko was able to get Japan on the board in the second after a coverage mistake by Sweden. While Sweden was expecting to be able to clear the puck out, Shiori Koike held the line and Toko went net front, taking the pass right in front and catching Söderberg down to cut the Swedish lead in half. Immediately thereafter, Sara Hjalmarsson took a tripping penalty and Japan was on the advantage – but again, they were unable to hold possession.

A special teams battle came up late in the second as both teams quickly scored on successive power plays. First Makoto Ito tied the game at 2 as she cruised through the slot to redirect a shot from the point by Akane Shiga (the call that led to the goal, a delay of game for not moving the puck along the boards, was questionable). But the tie was short lived as Ito was immediately assessed a hooking call and Hilda Svensson got Sweden their lead back on a shot through traffic on the power play.

Both teams seemed to slow the pace in the third, but Sweden established themselves quickly to make their lead insurmountable, with Mercyhurst's Thea Johansson going end-to-end to beat Kawaguchi and Sara Hjalmarsson adding her second of the game. Josefin Bouveng added an empty-netter to seal the deal after Japan missed a huge opportunity with a loose puck and Söderberg out of position. While Japan got yet another late power play, they couldn't get anything going and they took the regulation loss.

In my preview of Team Japan, I said that their success would depend on their forecheck and faceoffs, and in their toughest matchup yet they made it evident that they still have work to do in those areas to hang in the top division. The talent on their roster is undeniable, but at this point it's about executing at a systemic level to play a complete game against tough opponents. Without being able to run a tough forecheck, or cleanly win an offensive zone faceoff, they're going to continue to be left behind.

Canada 5, Czechia 0

Canada got going early, with Danielle Serdachny picking up a loose puck through a ton of traffic in front and poking it home past Klára Peslarová. If Peslarová can see it, she's generally going to stop it, so a goal like this out of chaos was a great start for the Canadians. They got a power play right after that goal, and they thought they had another one, but Natalie Spooner had interfered with Peslarová in the paint and it was immediately waved off.

Tereza Vanišová got Czechia into penalty trouble yet again with what was called an elbow, but Czechia managed to kill it and limited Canada's second opportunities. But Kristin O'Neill would put Canada up 2-0 on yet another scramble play in front of Peslarová on a delayed penalty. Tereza Radová took yet another contact penalty to put Canada back on the advantage about halfway through the first. From that point on, even though it was technically even strength after the kill, it was basically an ongoing Team Canada power play as Czechia couldn't hold possession (though not for lack of trying). Kristin O'Neill deflected a shot in tight near the Czechia goal to make it 3-0.

Czechia got their first power play with Spooner in the box for an illegal hit, though it looked like a mistake on the part of the official since Aneta Tejralová initiated the contact. But they failed to score even as the penalty carried into the second period, and they couldn't stop the bleeding as Renata Fast was able to bury a goal to make it 4-0.

Czechia managed to calmly kill a Canada power play and Vanišová had a great chance after she disrupted a pass across the blueline and used her speed to turn it into a breakaway chance, but Ann-Renée Desbiens made the save. After that, Czechia started to create space and finding open ice, but it didn't ultimately lead to many quality opportunities and Peslarová continued to be kept busy at the other end with Canada.

Czechia's best chance came early in the third, with Adéla Šapovalivová getting a chance right in front of Desbiens off of a turnover. But Desbiens made the save and the puck went the other way. Laura Stacey would collect it in her offensive zone, and created room for herself, using her size to go all the way around the net and shoot high on Peslarová. It was 5-0 early in the third, and while Czechia worked hard on the puck to try to create offense, they couldn't sustain much pressure and Canada kept pouring it on until time ran out.

Canada learned some serious lessons from how they played against Finland. Their tempo was fast-paced and their defense high in the zone tightened up considerably. Anytime Czechia tried to work the middle of the ice or get off the boards, Canada not only shut it down, but almost immediately turned play the other way created a scoring opportunity. Czechia had good defensive instincts and they were able to make many of Canada's chances quick opportunities off the rush, forcing them to the perimeter or back to center more often than not. But Canada didn't have an off switch or a down moment for 60 minutes – they shut down Czechia completely.

Much like Team USA's game against Finland, for me, this one really illustrated just how good Team Canada is. Czechia is an extremely difficult opponent, a group that has improved in leaps and bounds over the last few years. They're better-conditioned than ever before, punishingly physical, and have great skating and stick skills at both ends of the ice. They no longer shy away from a forecheck and they have individual game-breaking talent and strong two-way players. Canada had to be nearly perfect to shut them down so consistently and they were actually, truly perfect, executing every play they attempted at an extremely high level.

Both Team Canada and Team USA look poised to put on one for the ages on Monday night; meanwhile Team Czechia will close out their group stage on Tuesday looking to exploit a Team Switzerland that has yet again struggled with creating offense in this tournament.

China 1, Denmark 2 (SO)

China and Denmark played a closely contested, defensive matchup through 60 minutes and overtime. While there was not an overwhelmingly high shot volume from either side, both Jiahui Zhan and Emma-Sofie Nordström were outstanding to high-danger chances throughout the game, and you got the sense that whoever scored the first goal would end up with the win.

Amanda Refsgaard finally broke through late in the second period, carrying the puck in alone and using Zhixin Liu as a flash screen to beat Zhan and give her team the 1-0 lead.

But China has been nothing if not resilient, and with under two minutes to go in the third period, they managed to even things up. Xin Fang charged into the zone and shot a puck towards Nordström's pads for the rebound, which was picked up by Minghui Kong in the crease. Kong had managed to get completely lost in coverage and come in on net uncontested, where her backhand of Fang's rebound beat Nordström and tied the game at 1.

Denmark was the more consistent threat offensively throughout the game, but in overtime, they couldn't solve Jiahui Zhan, and Nordström continued to stand tall. The game would ultimately go to shootout, where Denmark would score twice and Nordström would be perfect to get the win. Denmark's winner came from Nicoline Jensen, who adjusted her speed and floated through the crease, getting Zhan to commit high before ripping the shot past her into the open net. This forced Yingying Guan into a must-score situation for China, but Nordström denied her five-hole.

This makes the last few days of group play very interesting for relegation. China next plays Germany on Tuesday morning, and Denmark and Japan will play each other as the last game of group play on Tuesday night. If China loses to Germany in regulation, they will sit with just three points, giving the winner of Japan/Denmark a chance to avoid relegation and make the playoffs with a regulation win. If either or both of these Group B showdowns go to extra time, then tiebreakers could come into play to determine the final standings.

Coming up on Monday, April 8

  • 11:00 AM Eastern – Germany vs. Sweden (Group B) (NHL Network, TSN 1/5) (in progress)
  • 3:00 PM Eastern – Switzerland vs. Finland (Group A) (ESPN+, TSN 1/5)
  • 7:00 PM Eastern – USA vs. Canada (Group A) (NHL Network, TSN 1/5)

(Photo: IIHF)