With nine of the 10 teams competing at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship securing at least one win throughout the preliminary stage, the quarter finals are now upon us, with four very tantalising match-ups of must watch hockey.
All stats and scores from the IIHF website, unless otherwise indicated.
Quarter Final 1: Switzerland v Japan
The only team not to secure a win during the preliminary stage was Japan, but the side finds themselves in a quarter final match-up due to being in Group A (only the top three teams from Group B advanced due to the structure of IIHF top division tournaments for the women).
For Switzerland, it will be looking for another semi-final berth and hoping it can upset whichever side it draws in the semi-finals.
The advantage of Switzerland is its one group stage win came against Japan (3-1) to open the tournament for the Swiss, before losing 4-1 to Canada, 9-0 to the USA, and 4-0 to Finland.
The biggest issue for the Swiss has been a lack of ability to convert on the power play, going zero for 16. In Beijing, throughout the seven games, it went six for 31.
Fixing the power play will be crucial for Switzerland to continue to make waves at this tournament and hopefully leave with a medal.
For Japan, going winless in the group stage is not ideal. Still, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the side, given a move to group A and facing much tougher competition than Group B in Beijing earlier this year.
Having only scored four goals (one per game) while conceding an average of 7.8 goals a game, Japan’s problems lie beyond a lack of ability to put the puck in the net.
It has only had three power play opportunities, going scoreless, showing that Japan has been unable to pressure opponents into making mistakes. On the few occasions it has, the side has been unable to take advantage.
Conversely, the penalty kill has had to do a lot of work, with the side being short-handed 20 times, conceding five goals in that span.
If Japan wants to have a chance of beating Switzerland, it needs to stay out of the penalty box and start finding any way it can to get the puck in the net.
Quarter Final 2: USA v Hungary
With a group-stage victory over Canada (the first time the USA has defeated Canada at a major tournament since 2019), the USA sealed the number 1 seed for the finals, going four for four, which could prove vital for the Americans.
What happened the last time the USA beat Canada in 2019? It also won gold that year, defeating Finland 2-1 in the final.
Outside of historical purposes, securing the one seed will allow Team USA to have the last change throughout the remainder of the tournament, allowing the coaching staff to select the match-ups it wants at face-offs, which will be crucial if the USA wants to win gold.
With the USA choosing to split the goalie time between Maddie Rooney and Nicole Hensley, the two have amassed a whopping 94.44 save percentage, allowing just three goals on 54 shots faced between the two.
This will give the USA coaching staff confidence in the goaltending regardless of whichever player is at the crease.
The power play has also drastically improved from Beijing, going from 24.14 per cent in seven games (seven for 29) to 38.89 per cent in four games (seven for 18), and that number should climb higher.
For Hungary, this is just its second appearance in the top division at the IIHF Women’s World Championship after earning a promotion in 2019.
Finishing 9th in 2021 with one win, it has already bettered its result, guaranteeing at least 8th spot in this year’s tournament, narrowly edging out Germany for a quarter-finals berth due to Hungary beating Germany in the preliminary rounds, with both sides finishing on four points, giving Hungary the tie-breaker.
While advancement past the Americans would be the biggest upset in quite some time, Hungary has had a respectable tournament, amassing a 90.15 save percentage and an 80 per cent penalty kill.
If Hungary is to find a way past the USA, it would be on special teams by staying disciplined and not allowing the USA any power play time and finding a way to get the USA onto the penalty kill regularly.
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Quarter Final 3: Finland v Czechia
Having gone four from four in Group B, Czechia avoided the USA and Canada, getting matched up with Finland instead.
With none of the four games being remotely close (7-1, 5-1, 6-0, and 3-0), Czechia showed it was far and away the best side in Group B but will be up against a completely different level of competition when it squares off against Finland.
That is not to say that Czechia could not pull off an upset. At the 2021 IIHF Women’s Worlds, these two squared off in the quarter-finals and it was a 1-0 victory to Finland, while in 2019, it was a 3-1 victory to Finland at the same stage.
If Czechia wants to keep things close and pull off an upset, Klára Peslarová will be crucial to proceedings.
Having played all four games, amassing a 96.08 save percentage in the 220 minutes she has played (she was pulled for the final period against Germany), Peslarová will need to be completely locked in against Finland.
For Finland, the side just needs to do what it has always done, and that is to be the third-best team in the tournament.
If Finland plays the game it knows how to play, a spot in the semi-finals will await.
One concern for Finland throughout the preliminary rounds has been a lack of execution on the power play.
Having gone nine for 25 in Beijing in seven games (36 per cent), the power play has struggled, only going one for 15 in four games so far at the Women’s Worlds (6.67 per cent).
If Finland can beat Czechia, the power play will need to improve very quickly if it wants to have a chance at advancing to the gold medal game like it did in 2019.
Quarter Final 4: Canada v Sweden
For Canada, it will enter the quarter-finals with a chip on its shoulder, harbouring its first defeat in major international competition since the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship, where it lost in the preliminary stage to the USA, and then to Finland in the semi-finals.
It has not been an easy tournament for Canada, who look far less dominant than it did in Beijing, and yet still won three of its four games with ease.
Canada has improved its discipline, taking significantly fewer penalties than in Beijing (14 through four games compared to 34 in seven games) and only giving up one goal on the penalty kill.
Like the USA, Canada has also chosen to split the starts between two goalies, with Ann-Renée Desbiens and Emerance Maschmeyer getting two starts each.
While it is clear Desbiens is the number-one choice for Canada, Maschmeyer could get the start against Sweden, much like she did in the corresponding fixture in Beijing, which was an 11-0 victory for Canada in the quarter-finals.
Sweden also went three of four in the group stages, only losing to Czechia, but could have easily gone one from four, with two of those wins being shootout victories against Germany and Hungary.
If Sweden wants to have a chance at upsetting Canada, Emma Söderberg will need to play the game of her life in goals, and her team will need to be heavily disciplined and back her up.
Unfortunately for Sweden, it has amassed the most penalty minutes throughout the preliminary stage at 62 (16 minors, two majors, and a game misconduct), letting in four goals.
If the side can stay out of the box and improve its scoring (currently 12 goals from 134 shots, 8.96 per cent), an upset could be on the cards, but it will take a complete team effort.
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