Women’s Worlds Begins — Statement from Canadian women’s national team — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with Eleni Demestihas, August 26, 2022

Hi everyone, we made it to Friday! This week I’ll be focusing on Women’s Worlds, as it’s been relatively quiet on the PHF and PWHPA fronts and we’re still a bit away from NCAA and USports resuming.

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Off the ice, Alex Azzi of NBC reported earlier this week that the US team is balancing their tournament play with contract negotiations as they renegotiate the contract originally negotiated during the team’s boycott of the 2017 Women’s World Championship. The contract will expire at the end of August, which is, inconveniently, right in the middle of this tournament. Hopefully the sides reach an agreement before then, but if they don’t it will be interesting to see what they do.

I would be extremely surprised to see a strike during or even after the tournament, but it’s a weird situation to be in. Striking after the Women’s Worlds Championship tournament won’t mean much because there’s no other tournament for months—it’s not like striking as a nine-to-five or shift work employee— but I would place the likelihood of a strike in the middle of a tournament at just barely above zero.

Team Canada’s women’s team has come under some scrutiny as well, primarily online, with respect to Hockey Canada and the legal and moral disaster the federation has become embroiled in. It’s difficult to ask any women’s team to strike, given that they already make less than their male counterparts in most cases, but there’s a conversation to be had about the Canadian team’s role in pressuring their federation to act. So far, other than a joint statement imploring the federation to include them in the process, we’ve heard nothing. 

We don’t know if this request was honored, and the federation’s recent actions have not inspired any kind of confidence in anyone following the saga. While it may not be their job, solidarity with survivors should inspire at least some kind of follow-up action or statement as this continues to drag out, especially while news of more, older assaults come to light at the same time that the team takes the ice in Hockey Canada’s jerseys. To date, there has not been one, and I think it’s fair for people to be disappointed in the team’s absence on this important issue.

Thursday was the first day of preliminary games, and here are the scores:

  • USA 10 – 0 Japan
  • Hungary 4 – 2 Germany
  • Canada 4 – 1 Finland
  • Sweden 5 – 2 Denmark

The only teams yet to take the ice are Switzerland (Group A) and the Czechs (Group B). Sweden and Hungary (!) top Group B with each of them notching a win today, and the USA and Canada are atop Group A with their wins. Today (Friday, Aug. 26th) we’ll see the following matchups:

  • Switzerland vs. Japan
  • Hungary vs. Czechia

You can see the rest of the schedule here. The Ice Garden has been writing recaps and so has The Victory Press.

Mikael Nahabedian did a really cool Twitter thread analyzing each team’s lineup from an analytics perspective:

The US looked unsurprisingly dominant in their opening game against Japan. Japan has made leaps and bounds of progress in the past few years, but there’s still a sizable gap between the North American teams and the rest of the world, with some exceptions (most notably and recently, Finland). After an underwhelming Olympic tournament, they hired a new coach and appear to look more like their old selves. John Wroblewski has made some really intriguing changes in the lineup, pairing veteran players with younger players and giving ample ice time to many players who have never experienced such a luxury at this level, and man, did it work.

Twenty-two year old Taylor Heise tied the Women’s Worlds record for assists with five, which is an even more incredible statistic when I tell you her first assist in this game was her first ever point on the senior national team. Nineteen year old defender Caroline Harvey scored a highlight-worthy backhander. Defender Rory Guilday scored her first goal, as did forwards Lacey Eden and Hannah Bilka. Nicole Hensley recorded a shutout. The US team killed both their penalties and got things moving on the powerplay, which they have struggled to do in recent memory. We’ll see if the lineup looks different against Finland, but after a performance like that, I wouldn’t be surprised if things look the same, save for goaltending. I imagine that Maddie Rooney will start against Finland.

As for Japan, they played better than the scoreline would suggest. Despite their impressive passing, though, they were only able to get three shots to the net, which ultimately is the difference-maker (they faced over sixty). 

Canada put together a strong performance against Finland, but Finland also didn’t do much to help themselves. Early on in the game, Petra Nieminen took a dangerous penalty against Kristin O’Neill, with disastrous consequences: Nieminen, a core part of this Finnish lineup, was ejected from the game, and worse, the penalty nullified the Finnish powerplay. From that point on, Canada dominated the pace of play for the most part. Sarah Nurse (who will be on NHL 23’s cover this year) opened the scoring, but then took back-to-back penalties. Finland scored on the second, courtesy of Julia Liikala, but Canada ultimately scored three more goals (Poulin, Mikkelson, Turnbull) to take the win.

This was a deeply chaotic game: bad hits, an ejection, a Finnish goal off of a rare Desbiens rebound, a penalty shot awarded and then saved. At the end of the day, a loss is a loss, but the Finnish team could have lost much worse than four to one. Stick taps go out specifically to captain Jenni Hiirikoski, playing in her fourteenth Worlds and setting a brand new record that I have no doubt will stand for a long time. 

Canada will need to cool it on the penalties if they want to beat the US, assuming that the US is able to keep their powerplay clicking. If Finland can right the ship, as I’m sure they will, they are still a team capable of bringing a medal home.

Hungary beating Germany may not mean much to you, but it should— it’s a big deal. Germany has been backstopped by Jennifer Harß for years, and she put up legitimately ridiculous numbers in these tournaments (think above a .950 SV%). Her retirement was always going to hit them hard, but I don’t think we knew how hard. The last time Germany played Hungary, they won three to nothing, and today it seemed like they were headed for a repeat as they went up two goals within the first fifteen minutes of the game. Hungary not only scored three unanswered goals, they showed that they had scoring depth even they may not have imagined, with two goals coming from longtime defender Franciska Kiss-Simon. The game-winner came off of a weird, shorthanded deflection from Kinga Jokai-Szilagyi, but to even be pressing in that situation shows a huge boost of confidence for this Hungary team. If Hungary can beat a young, fast Czech team, we might be in for a serious Cinderella story in Group B.

Finally, Sweden beat the hosts five to two. The Swedish team has really been through the wringer as of late, and when Denmark scored less than two minutes into the game, they might have struggled to bounce back, but they didn’t. Hanna Olsson scored a hat trick instead. It’s hard not to be excited for Sweden, who were relegated ahead of 2021 Worlds after years of struggling under former head coach Leif Boork. Still, scoring two goals on home ice is something that Denmark can and should celebrate.

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 Eleni Demestihas