Women's Worlds notebook: U.S., Canada set for another gold medal showdown
- The U.S. got an emphatic win over Germany on Thursday, while Canada took a measure of revenge against Finland. The wins put the two women's hockey powerhouses in the final at the Women's World Championship with a gold medal on the line.
PLYMOUTH, Mich.—Ten different goal scorers and thirteen different players combined to send the U.S. past Germany with an 11-0 win and onto the gold medal game for a date with rival Canada.
American coach Robb Stauber has been repeating a mantra of speed, aggressiveness and depth and all three were abundantly on display Thursday evening.
He’s so focused on the whole team committing and contributing, that he won’t number the lines: Team USA runs red, white, blue and gold lines. He also won’t name a number one goaltender.
Each player is invested, important and has bought in and the successes on the ice are speaking for themselves.
“You’ve got to have people within the program and in the system and on the team that can produce the end result we want. So right now for us to say we have a number one is probably not the wisest thing for us to say right now. We want all of them to compete day in and day out. And by that high standard, we’re getting what we expect,” he said.
Play the best to be the best
Germany goalie Jennifer Harss was adamant that playing teams like the U.S. and Canada is a positive, despite what the end result might be.
“Playing the No. 1 team is a great experience. We know they’re a strong, fast really skilled team. They’re on top of the world. Yeah, it’s great to play against them, but of course it’s a lesson. A hard lesson, but we for sure want to play against them,” she said. “I felt like the team never gave up even when it got really rough for us. We never stopped playing. It just puts us closer as a team and prepares us for tomorrow. We’re super motivated and we’re super excited.”
Though it quickly got out of hand, German coach Benjamin Hinterstocker said he was pleased with how his team started the game and played the first 20 minutes.
“We started like we wanted. We finished the first period 2-0 and I think that’s for us, a really good result. It was a tough game for us. We’re always trying to develop. It shows our players what to do to be on the top of it,” he said.
For the fans
Even as they remain laser-focused on their own game and what they can control, Kendall Coyne said the team is very aware of playing this tournament on home ice, in front of a crowd of fans who were so supportive.
“We’ve been on the road and overseas for the past few years (for the World Championships). Those of us that were (on the team) in 2012 (when Team USA won silver in Vermont), we remember that result and it wasn’t a good feeling. We want to make these fans proud. They stood by us the last few weeks so we definitely have something to prove,” she said.
This is the fourth time the U.S. has hosted the tourney, though it has fallen to Canada in each of the previous three chances (94, 01, 12), meaning this team could give its fans something extra special with a win on Friday.
Two steps back
For every advance in the parity of the game, there’s a score so lopsided you wish you could have ended the game early.
Germany still gets the chance to play for a medal on Friday and will finish higher than they ever have, but games like Thursday night’s semifinal are the unfortunate flip side of any advances in the game right now.
How important was goaltending to Germany’s success? Today the top three players of each team for the whole tournament were named, and both of Germany’s goalies, Jennifer Harss and Ivonne Schroder, were named in the top three.
Stauber was asked to compare his team’s success in this tournament to the December series the U.S. and Canada played in Plymouth and Sarnia, Ontario. He said that while the outcomes of those games were certainly upsetting, he specifically remembers looking up at the scoreboard in Sarnia and realizing how few shots the Canadians were getting.
He and the players have all been talking about the process, and that might be where it began. Instead of focusing on the outcome, Stauber asks his players to focus on the steps and let the outcome take care of itself.
Ultimately, if a team can limit the scoring opportunities of an opponent—especially a rival—most often things are going to end up in their favor.
“Yeah, the score didn’t end up how any of us wanted, you have to be able to look at that picture as a whole and say ‘are we doing some good things?’ he said. “We want the score to take care of itself. If we focus on the things that we think make us special, you have to be able to live with the end result.”
Canada 4, Finland 0
The Canadians won with authority in Thursday afternoon’s semi-final meeting with Finland. The Finns took a surprising win from Canada in the opening round, but the Canadians looked determined not to let the same thing happen twice.
It was a complete turnaround for the Canadians. They had an answer for every stumble and mistake they made in the first game.
“The main thing for us was that we had a lot of energy but we also had such close support. I found that if you did fumble the puck or you did lose it, we had that second person there fight away to help support and I think that as the difference,” said Rebecca Johnston.
Most importantly—for momentum, for confidence and to prove it was going to be a different game—they scored first.
National team rookie Sarah Potomak scored her second of the tournament. Coach Laura Schuler said Potomak was put on the team based on her ability to put pucks in the net and she’s living up to the expectations.
“We just wanted to come out fast and strong and ready to go,” said Potomak. “Playing for your country it’s a huge honor. It’s easy to get pumped up for these games, I just wanted to come out with confidence, not overthink the game. I’ve just been trying to play my game...I just came here to play and do whatever the coach wanted me to do and accept my role.”
Everyone on Canada seemed a bit relieved to not only have gotten the win, but to have given folks something else to talk about. Friday’s gold medal game against the U.S. will surely be front and center. Maybe now the Canadians will be able to really put the loss to Finland being them.
“We knew that this was another round. We couldn’t forget about those three games, we learned from them. We just decided it was a clean slate and we focused on what we needed to—playing Canadian hockey—and I think we came out and did that,” said Johnston.
For all the bluster the Finns had immediately following their win over Canada, goalie Noora Räty admitted that it’s still going to be rare that Finland can upset the Canadians. And she seemed to wonder if they might have used their opportunity to early, with the Olympics less than a year off.
“We know that anything can happen. These guys probably have nine games out of ten and we just hope that game is in the Olympics. (Instead) we already got that one game here. I don’t know, it might be a pretty big miracle if we get them twice,” she said.
Räty took on much of the blame for the semi-final loss. The Finland National Team stalwart has had to carry it many times, but wasn’t able to do so on Thursday.
“Personally I’m not happy how I played today or how I played against the U.S. I can play a lot better. [I’m] pretty mad about that. I didn’t give my team a chance to win today,” said Räty.
Even though the Finns were hoping for a better outcome than playing in the bronze medal game—something they’ve done for
“We keep playing better and better, so that’s positive. It wasn’t my best day. I’m sorry I didn’t give my team a chance to win today. Those are the shots I have to take at this level. We just didn’t get the start we needed to get today.”
Switzerland 3, Czech Republic 2
These two teams are making the relegation series count for everything it’s worth.
Switzerland scored in overtime to force a third game in the series. Christine Meier scored a gorgeous goal to put an authoritative stamp on the win, beating Czech goalie Klara Peslarova. But she said it wasn’t meant to be pretty, she was just tired.
“I honestly, I just tried to bring the puck to the net because we had stayed on the ice a long time this shift, so I knew I just had to score otherwise it was going to be hard. I was happy it was in,” she said. “I knew that I had a lot of space to take the shot and I saw a little opening, but I just really wanted to bring the puck to the net.”
Czech Republic forward Tereza Vanisova took the tournament lead with her third and fourth goals. She’s been an absolute powerhouse for the Czechs, but she was more than a bit flustered after Thursday’s game.
“We played well. I don’t think that we played bad. We worked hard and I think we were better and we were stronger on the puck, but we didn’t score,” she said.
The teams return to the ice at noon on Friday to play the final game of the relegation series. Winner stays in the top division, loser moves down.
Of course, with the proposed changes to the IIHF tournament format, it could be a short stay.
Die another day
“We came out of it to survive another day. I thought we played well. Yeah, they had more shots, but we came out strong. We wanted to do something different. We wanted to have that winner’s mentality. Everyone has to fight that little inch more,” said Stalder. “We already played well last game, but something was missing and we analyzed that and we realized it was the winner’s mentality: to finish every battle in the [defensive] zone, to go even harder if your legs are hurting. That type of player we need and that mindset and I think that helped.”
Russia 4, Sweden 3 (Shootout)
Johanna Fallman scored twice for Sweden to give it a 2-0 lead, but Russia came storming back. Lyudmila Belyakova and Fanuza Kadirova evened the score within eight minutes of each other in the third. Olga Sosina gave the Russians the lead but Pernilla Winberg scored a PP goal with 2:08 left in the game to force overtime.
It took 11 rounds of shootout before Kadirova won it for the Russians, giving them fifth place for the tournament and putting Sweden sixth.