15/04/2024

Caption: Players celebrate one of the 12 Canadian Goals. Source: Hockey Canada/Twitter

28 goals were scored across the opening day of the women's ice hockey tournament at the 2022 Winter Olympics, creating a lot of exciting action.

A highly anticipated opening day of women’s ice hockey did not disappoint with 28 goals being scored across the opening round action at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Pre-tournament favourites Canada easily disposed of Switzerland 12-1, while host nation China lost to Czech Republic 3-1. Japan secured a tough fought victory over Sweden, also a 3-1 scoreline, while the other pre-tournament favourites USA took on Finland with that game ending in a 5-2 victory for the Americans.

What was incredibly surprising about the day’s play was not just the amount of goals, but that they were coming from everywhere around the attacking zone for each team. What this meant was that it kept teams guessing and having to stay on their game and led to some amazing matches to watch.

Creative Canadians crush Switzerland

With three goals in the first period of play, five goals in the second, and four goals in the third period, Canada put out a complete 60-minute performance as they crushed Switzerland, who only managed to score one goal, which came on a 5 on 3 play from a very awkward shot, bouncing 5-hole through the legs and off the skate-off Ann-Renee Desbiens.

Despite the talent disparity between the two sides, Canada had to work very hard for every single one of their 12 goals, scoring from the left circle, the slot, in and around the blue paint, and even from below the goal line.

All goals scored in the Canada v Switzerland game. Black = Canada, Yellow = Canada Power Play Goal, Aqua = Switzerland 5 on 3 goal

Despite nine of the twelve goals coming from in and around the blue paint for Canada, these were not easy goals by any stretch. Switzerland made Canada work very hard at every attempt, playing some very solid and tough defence, and managing to keep the Canadians scoreless for significant lengths of time throughout the game.

What allowed Canada to be so dominant and score with regularity was the creativity they implemented through a strong net-front presence, creating overlapping runs around the net to get players those shots from in and around the blue paint. 

The goal from below the goal line came almost immediately off the restart from the fourth goal and Switzerland was not quite set up for it. When a dump and chase play resulted in Canada getting the puck back, all it took was a shot at the skates from Laura Stacey to the Swiss goalie, Andrea Braendli, who was not set-up and left the 5-hole open resulting in Canada’s fifth.

https://twitter.com/7olympics/status/1489110792326815745?t=5bXUqhIf_nY4-iQgPQF55g&s=19

These were all complimented by two amazing shots, one from the slot and one from the left face-off dot that most goalies would have had trouble stopping.

Czech Republic down host nation China

The Czech Republic, making their debut in the women’s ice hockey at the Olympics, got on the board first midway through the first period, after a pass from the top of the slot near the blue line was redirected in the middle of the slot and put on goal by Tereza Radova.

Czech Republic’s second goal would come just before the four-minute mark of the second period as a drive towards the net saw Denisa Krizova go 5-hole and slot it through.

China’s only goal of the game, which was the first Chinese women’s ice hockey goal in 12 years, was scored from the top of the left circle on the power play after some smart manoeuvring around the attacking zone to create some space allowing for the shot to go through on net.

https://twitter.com/7olympics/status/1489104270934908931?s=20&t=0_rFpXLMh6rm10pVhJf2Pw

The third goal for the Czech Republic saw a pass from the defensive zone go right through the neutral zone and find Michaela Pejzlova who was able to skate through the slot unimpeded after splitting the defence resulting in the goal, once again through the 5-hole, which was the fourth goal scored that way across both of the opening matches.  

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Japan grind out a tough result against resilient Sweden

With goals being scored on both sides of the first intermission, both teams were locked at 1-1 heading into the third period. It was going to take something special to break the deadlock, and that is exactly what Japan was able to do.

Bursting through on the right-wing after some creative passing around the neutral zone, Rui Ukita was able to sneak her shot just inside the left post giving Japan a one-goal lead. 

https://twitter.com/7olympics/status/1489184385878441985?s=20&t=0_rFpXLMh6rm10pVhJf2Pw

An empty net for Sweden as they pulled the goalie for an extra attacker to try and equalise, and nearly doing so as it took a scrambling Japanese defence to keep the one-goal lead, saw the first goal of the day come from outside of the attacking zone. Off the ensuing faceoff from the scrambling play, Japan was able to create some space on the right side of the ice which allowed Haruna Yoneyama to take a shot from the face-off dot just in front of the blue line for the empty-net goal to seal it. 

USA get gold medal defence off to a good start

After winning the gold medal in 2018, the USA got their defence off to a good start, downing Finland 5-2 in their opening game. 

An early injury to Brianna Decker could have put a damper on the spirit of the USA and allowed Finland to get a result, but all it did was further motivate the USA to go out and perform, with Amanda Kessel scoring the first goal not long after Decker went down.

https://twitter.com/7olympics/status/1489235062948253706?t=L9Eeacq9V91MzTVEclxmvA&s=19

It would be a doubles affair from here on out, with Alex Carpenter and Kendall Coyne-Schofield scoring doubles for the USA, while Finland’s only two goals of the game came from Susanna Tapani in the third period, one of which came on the power play. 

https://twitter.com/7olympics/status/1489252051628412940?t=I0BpnNH8cJ344sT35yZsYg&s=19

What to look for going forward throughout the women’s tournament

One of the common themes throughout the day was a lot of the goals coming from in and around the blue paint. Some as a result of scrambling plays, and some as a result of some well-worked and planned tactics.

There was also a concerning number of goals going 5-hole through the goalies. Goaltending might become the story of women’s ice hockey, and it will be fascinating to see how the goalies adjust to this throughout the tournament. How will teams be able to adapt to these changes, while continuing to put the pressure on and rack up the goal totals?

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