Monday, May 27, 2024

2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship Quarterfinals Recap: USA, Canada, Finland, Czechia advance to semifinals

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While the IIHF Women’s World Championship Quarterfinals featured some intriguing matchups, there were no real surprises on Thursday, as the favorites punched their tickets to the semifinals.

Let’s see how it all went down in Utica:

Top line dominates for the United States

It was already a mismatch on paper, but the United States left no doubt in their quarterfinal matchup against Japan, winning 9-0.

The Americans got after it in a first period that saw them outshoot their opponent 25-3. Lacey Eden opened the scoring with her first of the tournament right before the four-minute mark of the frame.

Hilary Knight added to the lead minutes later, the captain’s third of the tournament, with linemate Alex Carpenter scoring her team-leading fourth goal in Utica, sending the U.S. into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead.

The host nation poured it on in the second period. Caroline Harvey, Joy Dunne and Tessa Janecke all potted their first goals of the tournament, while Kirsten Simms scored her second in as many games. Abbey Murphy found the back of the net twice in the middle stanza, giving the Golden Gopher three in the tournament.

Carpenter padded the lead with another goal early in the third, capping off the dominating offensive effort.

The Americans’ top line was clicking. Carpenter, Knight and Kendall Coyne Schofield combined for 10 points, with Carpenter and Knight each posting four points.

Team USA outshot Japan, 48-14. Aerin Frankel posted her third shutout in Utica, making 11 saves.

Riko Kawaguchi started in net for Japan, giving up six goals on 33 shots. Miyuu Masuhara came in relief, allowing four goals on 15 shots.

It is the fourth straight tournament where Japan has been eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Canada outweighs Sweden

In a very physical game, with some liberties taken on both sides, it was Canada using some of its top weapons to come away with a 5-1 win.

Canada looked like they were going to run Sweden out of the building the way things started. Just over a couple of minutes in, PWHL Toronto defender Renata Fast scored a pretty goal to give the Canadians the early lead.

Just over three minutes later, great pressure from Blayre Turnbull led to Laura Stacey potting her second of the tournament, giving Canada a 2-0 lead barely five minutes into the game.

However, Sweden started to settle into the game, and a little past the halfway mark of the first, 17-year-old Hilda Svensson scored her fourth at this year’s Women’s Worlds to cut the deficit to one.

Canada came out hard again in the second period, hoping to extend the lead. They did just that over eight minutes in, as Fast notched her second of the game. While the Canadians outshot Sweden 11-3 in the middle stanza, a great effort by Swedish netminder Emma Söderberg kept her team in the game, but Damkronorna still trailed by two heading into the final period.

Sweden came close to cutting the deficit to one early in the third, but a quick whistle negated a potential goal. It would be as close as the Swedes got to staging a comeback, as Natalie Spooner and Jamie Bourbonnais each found the back of the net, securing the win.

Canada ended up outshooting the Swedes 44-18, with Söderberg making 39 saves. Emerance Maschmeyer picked up her second win of the tournament with a 17-save performance.

Fast’s longtime defense partner, Jocelyne Larocque assisted on both goals.

Sweden’s semifinal drought continues, as the country has not reached the semifinals since 2009.

Czechia survives tough battle with Germany

The matchup many were really curious to see was the two-time reigning bronze medalists against the Group B winners. It went down to the final buzzer, with Czechia outlasting Germany with a 1-0 win.

While the opening minutes of the game were very balanced, with both teams just feeling each other out, Czechia started to take control of the game, and ended up outshooting the Germans 12-5 in the first period, but thanks to German netminder Sandra Abstreiter, the game remained scoreless.

Germany started to bunker down defensively more in the second period, focusing on eliminating the dangerous scoring chances instead of pursuing offense themselves. The strategy was paying off, as the game was still 0-0 heading into the third period.

While Germany was going stride-for-stride with Czechia in the final 20 minutes, it was a point shot from Daniela Pejsova that snuck by Abstreiter to finally break the deadlock.

With over seven minutes to play in regulation, Träger der Adler pulled out all the stops. From Laura Kluge to the Welcke twins, they fired everything at the net. However, whether skaters risked their bodies by blocking shots or key saves from Czech netminder Klara Peslarova, Germany could not get anything into the back of the net.

Denisa Krizova took a major penalty for checking from behind with just a few minutes left, giving Germany a power play until the end of regulation. Despite a valiant effort, they were unable to find the tying goal, as the Czechs held on to advance to the semifinals for the third straight year.

Czechia outshot the Germans 24-17, with Abstreiter making 23 saves in the loss. Peslarova earned her first shutout.

This was Germany’s third trip to the quarterfinals in the last four seasons.

Fortunate bounces help Finland

Though they fell behind early, Finland recovered and put forth a solid effort to beat Switzerland, 3-1.

Ivana Wey caught the Finns off guard when she scored her first goal of the tournament just over a minute into the game, giving Switzerland its first lead in Utica.

However, Finland did not fret. Just past the halfway mark of the first, Petra Nieminen scored on a wraparound that bounced off Swiss blueliner Alessia Baechler, her third goal of the tournament, tying the game at one.

The Finns continued to ramp up the pressure in the second, and Nieminen created another solid scoring chance, setting up Susanna Tapani for her second goal at these Women’s Worlds later in the second period, giving her team the lead for the first time.

Switzerland’s attempt at a comeback was quickly derailed just minutes into the third period, as a lucky bounce in front of Andrea Braendli helped Nelli Laitinen notch her first of the tournament.

Eisgenossinnen had plenty of opportunities to score in the third period, as they had a couple of power plays. However, they could not beat Sanni Ahola, as Finland clinched a spot in the semifinals for the first time in three years.

Suomi outshot the Swiss, 37-17, with Braendli making 34 saves, while Ahola earned just her second win of the tournament with a 16-save outing.

Nieminen was named Finland’s player of the name, as she and Tapani each scored a goal and an assist.

It is the first time Switzerland has failed to make it to the final four since 2019. The team scored just four goals in the tournament, with captain Lara Stalder scoring twice. Alina Müller had one of her worst performances at the Worlds, registering only two assists in five games.

Semifinal Matchups (Saturday)

Finland vs. United States – 3p ET (NHL Network, TSN)

The U.S. is looking like a far more dominant team that helped the team win gold in Brampton last year. They control the play, they limit the other team’s top weapons, and have been leaving very little doubt.

Regardless of what kind of talent Finland has coming into this game, they are heavily outmatched. They will need Sanni Ahola to come up with the game of her life, and they will need all hands on deck to get offense going against a strong U.S. blueline.

Led by Coyne Schofield, the U.S. beat Finland, 5-3, in the group stage.

The United States has been to each of the 22 championship games since the tournament’s inception in 1990. Finland has only been to the Gold Medal Game at the Women’s Worlds once, that coming in the controversial 2019 Final against the Americans.

Czechia vs. Canada – 7p ET (NHL Network, TSN)

For Canada to make it to another championship game, they can ill afford to allow Czechia to get comfortable in the game. Canada has the firepower to take control against Czechia like they did in their group-stage matchup. They are going to rely on their depth and veterans on Saturday.

If Canada were to take the Czechs lightly, it will burn them. Czechia has a little bit more depth than Sweden, and has plenty of experience. However, what the Czech side doesn’t have is the knowledge of what it takes to win in the semifinals at a major tournament. Maybe players like Sapovalivova and Tereza Plosova can bring the same magic that helped them beat Canada in the Under-18 semifinals in January.

Canada beat Czechia, 5-1, this past Sunday, and has advanced to 21 of the 22 Women’s World Championship Games.

Three Stars

  1. Alex Carpenter, F, United States: That top line for the Americans is something else, and Carpenter is one of the workhorses on that line. Her vision gives her the ability to create scoring chances, with the touch that allows her to finish them. Carpenter leads the tournament with five goals.
  2. Renata Fast, D, Canada: Fast has always been known to have a scoring touch, but it has not been noticeable in Utica until Thursday night. The 29-year-old’s performance only shows why she is one of the best two-way blueliners.
  3. Petra Nieminen, F, Finland: Nieminen is certainly one of the top 10 players not in the Professional Women’s Hockey League. She has been outstanding throughout the entire tournament and brought her best against Switzerland.

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