2024 IIHF Women's World Championship: Day 6
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2024 IIHF Women's World Championship: Day 6

2024 IIHF Women's World Championship: Day 6 by Zoë Hayden

Germany 1, Sweden 0

Germany became the surprise of Group B, upsetting Sweden to take the 1-0 victory and remain perfect on the tournament with three regulation wins.

It wasn't ordained, though – it was a long 60 minutes of hockey, highlighted by the strong play of Sandra Abstreiter and perfect penalty killing by the Germans against a Swedish power play that had executed at 44.4% headed into today's game. Sweden had tons of opportunities, and was out-shooting Germany 25 to 10 through two periods. Emma Söderberg had also been excellent, stopping pucks when they did get through to her and often keeping the play going, since German players hadn't been able to drive the net for second opportunities.

Nobody could solve Abstreiter, though. She was quick, reactive, and hunted rebounds diligently. Anything she left loose, she was able to re-set for. Germany had an opportunity on the power play early in the third period, and while Sweden killed it, the German side seemed to get energy from it. They were able to execute some great movement and passing sequences on the advantage and force Söderberg to make some saves.

This set up the opportunity for Germany to finally beat Söderberg perhaps the only way that they were going to – on a deflection. Franziska Feldmeier took the puck into the zone, carried it to the middle and ripped a hard backhand shot wide of the net, but the puck stayed in the zone, and she put herself net-front as Germany continued to cycle. Tabea Botthof shot the puck from the high slot and Feldmeier's shin pad deflected it past Söderberg to get the 1-0 lead.

Germany played extremely well with the lead and maintained their urgency, battling hard for possession while Sweden watched the clock wind down. With just 2:10 to go, Sweden would get a golden opportunity on the power play to tie things up, but Abstreiter robbed Sweden's offense including a point-blank chance by Lina Ljungblom, and the defense around her was able to force Sweden to the outside. Time simply expired on Team Sweden, and they took their first loss of the tournament.

Sweden's group play has concluded, but nobody else is done yet. The remaining Group B games will have implications in the standings, and determine who advances and who gets relegated. Germany will meet China on Tuesday morning, and Japan will meet Denmark on Tuesday night. However, both Germany and Sweden have already punched their tickets to the quarterfinal round.

Switzerland 2, Finland 5

For some reason, this game was being played during what was, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view a total solar eclipse. Utica, New York, where the IIHF Women's World Championship is being held this year, was in the path of totality, with the eclipse starting in Utica at 2:10PM and with mid-eclipse occurring at 3:24PM. Much of the United States was able to observe a significant partial eclipse during this time. So, I missed part of this game due to the eclipse – I hope you'll forgive me.

As usually happens between these two teams, Finland held court and had built up a commanding 4-1 lead by the end of the second period, while Switzerland had only amassed 9 total shots on goal. Lara Stalder scored the first Swiss goal of the entire tournament in the first, getting the last touch on a point shot by Alessia Baechler and redirecting it past Sanni Ahola. Stalder's goal tied the game, and put Switzerland in a good position – but Roja Salvolainen scored with 8 seconds left in the frame to give Finland the lead, and they didn't look back.

Sanni Vanhanen made it 3-1, then Susanna Tapani added a fourth goal for Finland with an outstanding individual effort, using her size and speed to circle the net and catch Andrea Brändli looking the other way.

With about 16 minutes to go in the third, Stalder had a breakaway, but Ahola was able to deny her five-hole. Stalder even got another one less than a minute later, but fired it high and wide. Switzerland's defense seemed to improve as the game went on, which allowed them to mount some sustained shifts in the offensive zone. There was a scary moment when Noora Tulus checked Stalder hard into the boards and she had some difficulty getting up, but she did stay on the bench.

Sinja Leemann proved that it's not just Lara Stalder who can impress on the breakaway as she took a long pass forward from Laura Zimmermann and was able to beat Ahola on a hard shot glove side, cutting the lead to 4-2 with about 9 minutes remaining. Switzerland weren't able to mount sustained pressure, though. With under 2 to go, Jenni Hiirikoski expertly airmailed a puck into the empty net from her own zone, and 5-2 would be the final score.

Finland won their first game of the tournament to close out group play, meanwhile Switzerland is still searching for their first win and will face Czechia on Tuesday afternoon.

USA 1, Canada 0

This one started with Team USA playing their blistering pace against Canada, and they habitually kept Canada from entering the offensive zone. Canada was outplayed in the first, generally, but Ann-Renée Desbiens was sharp to keep the scoresheet even.

A subplot in the first half of this game was Abbey Murphy drawing penalties, first by just out-skating Ella Shelton to get a shot on Desbiens and drawing a very late hit after the whistle (which Hayley Scamurra retaliated for, evening the calls), and also getting Jocelyne Larocque to absolutely body her along the boards well away from the puck. Larocque's infraction came at an inopportune time for Canada, having just killed another penalty for an illegal hit, and after they had spent the first part of the second period more much in control and successfully frustrating the American side's attack. On the second Team USA power play of the night, they finally got the look they wanted with Hannah Bilka at the side of the net, but she couldn't quite elevate it and Desbiens absolutely robbed her with a glove.

As the second went on, Canada started wearing down the opposition by being more aggressive physically and goading them into penalties (including a hook and a delay of game on the penalty kill when Scamurra fired the puck over the glass). The latter penalty extended into the third period – but still, no one could score.

The third felt like a slow undoing of all of your best-laid plans. Canada had trouble getting out of their own zone at times as Team USA was able to work some cycles and even get excellent chances on the rush. Heise created two 2-on-1 opportunities in short order at one point, trying to find Murphy backdoor and also feeding Caroline Harvey, but neither shot could get past Desbiens. Despite the challenges Canada had getting sustained pressure, they were opportunistic, and every second they spent near Frankel felt genuinely threatening because they were always one shot away with some of the best shooters in the world circling their prey. Aerin Frankel had to make several quality stops and the defense around her had to be extremely alert.

The last five minutes of regulation had chances to put the game away for both sides. Hannah Bilka was called for a penalty with 4:15 to go, but Canada's power play had trouble getting established, leading to a rush for Kendall Coyne Schofield and Hilary Knight, but Desbiens made the save. Back at even strength, Natalie Spooner very nearly ended it, but Frankel's crease was well defended. Lacey Eden also had a point-blank chance at the other end, but time just ticked down.

Overtime was exactly as wild as you would think, with tons of open ice and unbelievable individual efforts on defense. Hilary Knight blocked a wide-open chance by Spooner with her body, and then Spooner came back the other way to backcheck on Keller who was looking for Knight in front of the net. Murphy had an equally good backcheck on Spooner just seconds later. You know, that sort of thing, which we are spoiled on.

Both teams got a line change, and this is where it gets tricky. The sequence that led to the OT winner is questionable. Caroline Harvey swept her stick and caught Brianne Jenner around the skate, and Jenner went down. All of this happened in directly front of the referee, so why it wasn't called a trip will remain a mystery – perhaps just "overtime rules" at play. But, thanks to that trip, Jenner was suddenly out of the play and Harvey had the puck going the other way, 3-on-1 with Kirsten Simms and Taylor Heise.

The lone player back was Marie-Philip Poulin, as Larocque had been net-front at the other end. Larocque was rushing to get back, but she'd be way too late. Harvey fed Simms, who used Poulin as a low screen and fired the puck from in tight. Desbiens was beaten, and Team USA now goes undefeated in Group A play.

It's unfortunate that a missed call led to the goal, but there were other things working in Team USA's favor to get them this victory – namely, their speed and line selection. Jenner, Poulin, and Larocque versus Harvey, Simms, and Heise is probably a bad matchup for Canada to have if they're hoping to win footraces during 3-on-3. Larocque misjudged the play and ended up well out of position, forcing Poulin to defend a 3-on-1 rush. It was a missed call but it was also a mistake in coverage, and with two teams playing as exceptionally well as USA and Canada are, situations like this are often going to factor in to who wins and who loses.

Now they each have to win two more games in the quarterfinals and semifinals if they want an opportunity to play a rematch for gold.

Coming up on Tuesday, April 9

  • 1:00 AM Eastern – Germany vs. China (Group B) (NHL Network, TSN1)
  • 3:00 PM Eastern – Czechia vs. Switzerland (Group A) (ESPN+, TSN1)
  • 7:00 PM Eastern – Japan vs. Denmark (Group B) (ESPN+, TSN1)