11/12/2023

Players from Canada come together to celebrate scoring against Switzerland. (Photo Credit: Hockey Canada - Twitter)

Unlike the quarter-finals, the semi-finals were a little more straightforward in terms of results, robbing the tournament of a dream upset for the gold medal.

Semi-Final 1: Dominant USA keeps on powering through everyone

Leading into this match, the hope was that Czechia might be able to keep this game close as it did at the Beijing Olympics when the two met earlier this year in the quarter-finals, which the USA won 4-1.

It was clear at the 10:47 mark of the first period that was not going to be the case. The USA had just scored its third goal on just its 10th shot on goal, forcing Czechia to use a timeout to try and settle the side down and re-assess.

The USA responded on the other side of the timeout by scoring three more to give it a 6-0 lead at the end of the first.

Klára Peslarová would be given an early mark at the end of the first as she would be replaced by Blanka Skodova in net for only the second time in this tournament to try and stem the flow of goals.

Czechia would finally find a goal 11:16 into the second period as Klara Hymlarova would hit the board but just 14 seconds later Amanda Kessel would dash any hopes Czechia thought it might have had of a comeback by finding the back of the net.

The USA would run out 10-1 winners and would be left to wait for the result of the other semi-final to find out if it would face Canada or Switzerland for a gold medal.

Semi-Final 2: Canada dismantles Switzerland to set up a Gold medal match against the USA

Having only beat Switzerland 4-1 in the preliminary stage, Canada would double its goal tally, putting eight goals past the Swiss in an 8-1 victory.

It would take until 13:37 into the first period before Canada would open the scoring, and the next goal would come just 10 seconds later to give it a two-goal lead.

After another two goals to open the second period, Switzerland would get one back 5v3 as Lara Christen would make Canada pay for having two players in the penalty box and give Switzerland some life heading into the third.

That life would be quickly dashed as just 1:17 into the third, Marie-Philip Poulin would score to give Canada back its four-goal lead, before another three goals would be scored in the final frame to make it an 8-1 victory for the Canadians.

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Bronze medal game: Switzerland v Czechia

With both sides coming off massive semi-final losses, they still have the shot at competing for bronze.

For Switzerland, it will be aiming to secure its second bronze medal at the IIHF Women’s World Championship, having won its first and only medal at the World’s in 2012 (Switzerland won Olympic bronze in 2014, and bronze at the 1995 European Championship).

For Czechia, this is its first-ever opportunity for a medal across any competition in the top division, and the side will not want to let this opportunity slip away.

Czechia has a superior power play to Switzerland (25 per cent vs 4.17 per cent) and is performing better on the penalty kill by almost 10 per cent.

The biggest disparity between the two sides comes in the scoring department. While they are both converting at a similar rate (12.44 per cent for Czechia, 10.29 per cent for Switzerland), the actual goals scored is telling. 

Czechia has scored 24 goals from 193 shots on goal compared to just seven goals from 68 shots on goal for Switzerland (five of which came against Japan in two games).

If Czechia can maintain its offensive output while restricting Switzerland like other teams have been able to throughout this tournament, then it will be a first bronze medal for Czechia.

For Switzerland to win, it needs to find a way to generate attacking opportunities, force Czechia onto the penalty kill and take advantage of those power play opportunities if it wants to walk away with the bronze medal.

Gold medal game: USA v Canada

After a 5-2 victory in the group stage, the USA ensured it will be the number one seed throughout the tournament, and that will pay off here against Canada as the Americans will have the advantage of last change as the designated home team.

What that means is at every stoppage, Canada will have to put its players onto the ice first, allowing the USA to pick and choose the match-ups it wants to create.

The path to victory for the USA is going to be a simple one. Do exactly what it has done all tournament. Move the puck around, dictate the pace of play, force Canada into making mistakes, and capitalise on them, and have a strong defence.

One thing the USA coaching staff will need to be wary of and avoid is shortening the bench, which is one of the things that cost them gold at the Olympics. Every player will need to play a role at every stage of the game to ensure that when they are needed, they can perform at their best for the entire shift.

The last time the USA beat Canada in a major international competition, the Americans won the gold medal.

Canada knows this. The Canadians will not want it to happen again and will be prepared to take it to the Americans.

Having not looked like their usual dominant selves, the Canadians have improved as the tournament has gone on, and should be at 100 per cent against the USA, but know that they are facing a much more dominant USA line-up than in years previous.

Of the four main stats, Canada only has the edge in one of them (90 per cent penalty kill compared to 86.67 per cent).

The USA’s scoring efficiency is better by a wide margin (15.66 to 10.33 per cent), the power play is better by 13 per cent (34.62 to 21.43 per cent), and the goaltending is at 93.24 per cent compared to 89.74 per cent.

What the scoring efficiency looks like in goals is also quite startling.

52 goals on 332 shots on goal for the USA compared to just 30 for Canada on 299 shots.

For Canada to win, the path to victory will be to find a way to shut down the line of Alex Carpenter (two goals, seven assists), Taylor Heise (seven goals, 11 assists), and Amanda Kessel (six goals, 10 assists), who have been dominating this tournament for the USA.

But that will just be one piece of the puzzle, as Hannah Bilka (five goals, seven assists) and Hilary Knight (six goals, three assists) have been just as dominant.

Despite not having last change, Canada will need to find a way to pick the match-ups it wants, and force the USA into making mistakes, which the Americans have not done a lot of.

Expect forwards Sarah Fillier (five goals, five assists) and Marie-Philip Poulin (five goals, four assists), defender Ella Shelton (two goals, six assists) and goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens (92.50 save per cent) to play a massive role in this one if Canada is to emerge victorious.

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