The United States finds itself in the quite unusual position as the defending champion when the 2009 IIHF world women’s championship opens April 4 in Hämeenlinna, a city of about 66,000 inhabitants in the south of Finland.
In the 11 previous championships, Canada has grabbed the gold medal on nine occasions, with the U.S winning the other two; in 2005 and last year in Harbin, China.
The U.S. opens the quest for its first-ever back-to-back gold against Japan on Saturday. Russia is the third team in this preliminary round, Group A.
Canada is the top seed in Group B with Sweden and China, while host Finland heads Group C, with Switzerland and Kazakhstan. The gold medal game is Sunday, April 12.
The United States are also in a position to take over the No. 1 spot in the women’s IIHF world ranking for the first time. Any U.S. final championship placing higher than Canada’s will assure the Americans of the top position in the final 2009 ranking.
In the 14 previous women’s major world events – including the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Olympic Winter Games – no team other than Canada and the U.S. have managed to win gold. The United States won gold in Nagano 1998, while Canada was on top in Salt Lake City (2002) and in Turin (2006).