Czechia ready for another medal — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with The Ice Garden, Apr. 14, 2023

Welcome to another Hockey Friday at The IX, brought to you by The Ice Garden! (This week’s edition is brought to you by me, Mike Murphy.) The 2023 Worlds have been absolutely fantastic. Truth be told, there’s almost too much to catch you up on this week, but that is why we’re here. Let’s dive into some must-click links before we highlight Team Czechia advancing to the semifinals for a shot at a second-ever medal.

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We had major news in the pro women’s hockey landscape with the opening of unrestricted free agency for the PHF on April 12. Most importantly, we learned of the new $30,000 minimum salary for the majority of the league’s players. Every team must have 20 players who make at least $30,000 and teams must spend $1,125,000 of the $1.5 million salary cap. Each PHF roster must also have 22 players signed. Last season’s league minimum was $13,500, but the new minimum is still not enough to give everyone access to the pro lifestyle that PHF and PWHPA players are working to build.

Also in PHF announcements: Boston Pride defender Lauren Kelly was named the recipient of the Denna Laing Award. The recipient of this award is determined by Laing and her family. Kelly endured a season-ending injury in the preseason and committed herself to recovery, rehabilitation, and being a model teammate.

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Melissa Burgess of The Victory Press reported that original PHFer and Metropolitan Riveters captain Madison Packer is in the market for a new team. Packer is the face of the franchise and essentially holds every record a skater could have. If she’s truly done with the Riveters, it will be a seismic shift in the identity of one of the PHF’s Founding Four franchises. Packer, 31, finished the 2022-23 season with 21 points in 24 games and shared the team lead in scoring with veteran Kelly Babstock.

Packer was in another headline this week after signing her name next to Team USA icons Erika Lawler and Meghan Duggan in an open letter opposing Federal bill H.R. 734, which would ban transgender and intersex girls and women from participating in sports. Packer, Lawler, and Duggan joined 37 other pro, Olympic, and Paralympic athletes opposing the bill.

Women’s hockey went viral because of a brawl between Romania and Bulgaria in the DIII – Group A Worlds on April 9. Romania won the game 10-2 and the box score tells us there were 501 PIM in the third period alone and Bulgaria finished the game with 289 PIM. So, yep, that happened. Team Hong Kong’s 4-1-0 record earned them a promotion to DII – Group B in 2024. Both Romania and Bulgaria will remain in DIII – Group A.

Team Sweden’s Hanna Olsson is (finally) healthy and the game is better for it. Olsson, who has battled injuries throughout her career, has been a breakout star in Brampton. Her 7-point game in Sweden’s 8-2 win over France was the performance of a lifetime for the skilled forward. For context, Olsson led Sweden in scoring at the 2022 Worlds with 8 points in 6 GP.

For Black Rosie Media, Angélica Rodríguez highlighted the success we’ve been seeing from programs outside of North America in Brampton and discussed why we need more coverage of Europe and Asia’s top players. This story also includes a clip of a controversial hit delivered by Team USA’s Kelly Pannek, which surprisingly did not result in a suspension from the IIHF.

Zoë Hayden of The Victory Press has a great recap of all the action from Brampton on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. It’s a great read to revisit while we all gear up for the semifinals. Included in their story is a great summary of Team Canada’s shootout victory over Team USA in the group stage. If you missed that game, you definitely missed something special.

Honestly, what can we say about Team Sweden nearly upsetting Team Canada last night? Hilda Svensson, just 16 years old, tied the game at 2-2 with 9.2 seconds left in regulation to deliver a moment that Swedish women’s hockey has been craving for years. Swedish keeper Emma Söderberg was brilliant. She made 51 saves in the game but Sarah Nurse delivered the dagger in OT to end Sweden’s hopes for a medal.

Team Czechia triumphed over Team Finland in a 2-1 victory on Thursday afternoon, putting them on a collision course with the medal games. Ian Kennedy of The Hockey News profiled Czechia’s head coach Carla McLeod and the program’s success. Czechia claimed bronze — their first medal — at the 2022 Worlds in Denmark. After a close call overtime win over Team Japan in the group stage, Czechia has a chance to add more hardware as one of the final four teams left standing.

What is perhaps most remarkable about Czechia’s success is that they went 2-2-0 in the group stage and defeated Finland in the quarterfinals without goalie Klára Peslarová, who is sidelined with an injury. Peslarová is not just a top player for the Czechs, she’s also one of the best goalies in the world. Her understudy, the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Blanka Škodová, has risen to the occasion as the new starter and was particularly brilliant against the Finns. She stopped 41 of the 42 shots she faced from Finland to send Czechia to a semifinal showdown.

Fortunately for Czechia, Peslarová, 26, has a lot of hockey ahead of her and she’s just one part of a deep core. The program’s continued success without her in the blue paint in Brampton is further proof of the strength of Czechia’s systems and priority on puck possession. There’s no denying that the Czechs are here to stay, counted among the true powers of the women’s game with the U.S., Canada, and Finland. Now they have earned a chance to test themselves again to see if they are worthy of bronze or perhaps a more precious medal.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by The Ice Garden