After a bumper two days of quarterfinals action which nearly saw one of the favourites knocked out, it is time for the semi-finals, and three of the remaining four teams will now walk away with a medal.
What colour that medal is will be decided over the remaining four games in the women’s ice hockey at Beijing 2022.
The Inner Sanctum is here to wrap up all the quarter-final action and look at what the remaining teams will need to do to take home a medal.
USA v Czech Republic
A 55 save effort by goalie Klára Peslarová on 58 USA shots (94.83 save percentage) was not enough for the Czech Republic to pull off what would have been the upset of the tournament, as they eventually lost 4-1 and the USA booked its ticket to the semi-finals.
In the opening period, this game was dominated by the USA who amassed 18 shots on goal but could not find a way to get one past Peslarová, as the Czech Republic did not get a single shot on target in the first period.
The second period was much more of the same in the early going, as the Americans continued to rack up more shots on goal but could not break down Peslarová, and the Czech Republic would take advantage of her fantastic performance in net to open to scoring at the 4:59 mark in the second.
The forward group on the ice for the Czech Republic made a drive towards the net and got just their second shot of the game away which resulted in Alex Cavallini giving away a rebound which was put home by Michaela Pejzlová.
After that goal was scored, it took just 48 seconds for the Americans to equalise, as Hillary Knight would finally break down Peslarová.
With the Czech Republic heading into this game with an unsuccessful power play from 17 attempts, it was gifted a golden opportunity to break that streak on its second opportunity of the game, as Dani Cameranesi would go to the box on a major penalty.
This would give the Czech Republic a full five minutes with the player advantage to try to retake the lead, which would prove unsuccessful as the USA penalty kill successfully did their job which meant both teams would walk into the third period still tied at one.
6:49 into the third period would see the net of Peslarová penetrated for just the second time as she gave up her second, having lost her stick just prior to the goal and was unable to get a grip back on it before Lee Stecklein put the puck home for the Americans.
The Czech Republic would have two more opportunities on the power play, and their 21st and the final one was cut short as Denisa Křížová headed to the box. On the ensuing power play, Savannah Harmon would score the third goal for the USA, essentially sealing the game.
Peslarová would head to the bench not long after the resumption of play to give the Czech Republic an extra skater, but it would not prove enough with time running out, and with six seconds remaining, Kendall Coyne Schofield would score into the empty net for a 4-1 scoreline.
While the USA amassed 59 shots on the net, the Czech Republic could only manage six in what would be their final game of Beijing 2022, and its first Olympic Games. Knowing that it left with their heads held high and staying in the contest against one of the best teams in the world until the dying minutes leaves the Czech Republic with nothing to be ashamed of, and a bright future ahead for women’s ice hockey at a national level.
For the USA, it will look to shake off what was a sub-par performance by its own high standards and regroup as they make it into the semi-finals where they will meet Finland and hopefully advance to the gold-medal game as it looks to go back-to-back after winning gold at the 2018 Olympics.
Canada v Sweden
Leading into this game there was hope from a neutral standpoint that Sweden might deliver something like what the Czech Republic did earlier in the day and come close to pulling off an upset.
Unfortunately, that was not the case and once Brianne Jenner put the first goal past Emma Söderberg, there was only ever going to be one winner.
Sweden did manage to regroup and gather a little momentum throughout the middle stage of the first period, but it was not enough to stop the Canadian onslaught, who put up another three goals in the first period to bring the total to four.
The second period saw Canada add five more to the scoresheet, including two power-play goals.
Trailing by nine, Sweden decided to pull Emma Söderberg for the third period and put in 18-year-old Ida Boman for the third, who only gave up a further two goals to bring the total to 11 for the Canadians.
Söderberg was not bad in net, even if the stats show that she only saved 30 of 39 (76.92 save percentage). If she was not in net, the onslaught could have been a lot worse, as she came up massive on several occasions, including a 2 on 0 breakaway (in ice hockey, the goalie is not counted as a skater, and therefore is not counted as being a defender in occasions like this) in the middle stages of the second period.
Boman made 15 saves on 17 shots (88.23 save percentage) and was instrumental in Sweden not conceding more, as the Canadians were still looking to score almost any way they could during the final period.
Sweden can leave the tournament with their heads held high, especially given some of the issues which have plagued Swedish Women’s Ice Hockey in recent years. They will learn from this experience and come back much stronger.
Canada amassed a total of 56 shots, bringing the tournament total to 250. Those 11 goals brought the goals to total up to 44, scoring on 17.60 percent of shots on goal.
The ill-discipline of Canada continues to be an issue, amassing another four penalties, but it did not concede on the penalty kill, bringing their penalty kill success up to 92.59 percent.
Earlier in the week, The Inner Sanctum offered up three teams that could stop Canada in this tournament. USA, Finland, and Japan.
Japan is now out, while the USA and Finland meet in the semi-finals. With the way both of those teams have been playing, there might only be one team that can stop the high-flying Canadians. Themselves.
Canada has a date with Switzerland in the semi-finals, as it looks to get back to the gold-medal game and avenge its loss to the Americans in 2018.
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Russian Olympic Committee v Switzerland
What will go down as an upset on paper was anything but an upset in reality. 4-2 was the final score in favour of Switzerland, but the score itself does not even begin to describe just how much of a close game this really was.
Having suffered through a 5-2 loss to ROC in the group stages, Switzerland was able to take the lessons learned from that game and apply them here.
The first 30 minutes of this game was dominated by both goaltenders (Andrea Braendli for Switzerland and Valeria Merkusheva for ROC) before Switzerland made the breakthrough when Phoebe Staenz put the first goal past Merkusheva 34 and a half minutes in.
It would not take ROC long to equalise, as Anna Savonina would level things up to make it 1-1 heading into the third period after a video review overturned the on-ice call of no goal.
ROC thought it had taken the lead early in the third, but video review once again came into the play, as a coach’s challenge for a missed stoppage of play showed the puck bounce off the glass on the inside of the Swiss bench, resulting in the goal being wiped off the board.
Switzerland would take full advantage of this 70 seconds later, retaking the lead through Dominique Rüegg.
ROC would once again equalise, this time through Fanuza Kadirova late in the third period.
30 seconds after the Kadirova equaliser, the Swiss would once again take the lead, this time through Alina Müller for what would be the game-winning goal, but some late drama almost saw this game head to overtime.
Keely Moy committed a tripping penalty with 1:47 to go, and the ROC went all out in trying to equalise and extend their stay in Beijing. Pulling the goalie with 36 seconds to go, ROC nearly managed to do so, but it was too little too late.
Switzerland, however, was able to regain control of the puck in the dying seconds, and with the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, Alina Müller was able to slide the puck down the ice from deep inside the Swiss defensive end into the empty ROC goal for the fourth and final Swiss goal.
An exit for ROC is not all that surprising given the squad was decimated by covid throughout the tournament. Like the Czech Republic, ROC exits the tournament having not scored on the power play, having gone scoreless on 14 attempts.
The Swiss have a semi-final appearance against a Canadian team who beat them 12-1 in the group stage, and this will mark just their second appearance inside the final four at a major tournament since the 2014 Olympics where they won bronze (Switzerland also finished fourth at the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship).
The keys to victory for Switzerland in the semi-final will need to be the determination and tenacity it showed in this game against the ROC and by studying the tape and correcting some of the mistakes made in that group stage fixture against Canada.
If the Swiss are unable to upset Canada, they will have a shot at a bronze medal and will look to replicate what they did in 2014.
Finland v Japan
The last quarter-final match saw Finland absolutely outclass Japan en route to a 7-1 victory to set up a rematch from the group stage against the USA.
It all started early as Rui Ukita would get called for a tripping penalty just 50 seconds in which would give Finland its first goal on the power play and a second goal would follow not long after.
Shiga Akane would give Japan some life as she scored with five minutes to go remaining in the first for a 2-1 scoreline heading into the second period.
The remainder of the game would see it be mostly one-way traffic for Finland as it put a stranglehold on the match, putting up 49 shots, to march through to the semi-finals with Petra Nieminen picking up a hat-trick.
Anni Keisala saved 24 of 25 shots (96.00 save percentage) and Finland would go one for two on the power play, although the second opportunity came after the seventh goal had been scored and the game well beyond reach for Japan.
For Japan, it can leave Beijing with nothing to be ashamed of, having topped group B, finishing with the fourth-best scoring efficiency (14 goals from 165 shots, 8.48 percent), and the fourth-best goaltending (14 goals against on 164 shots for a 91.46 save percentage).
Japan also finished having conceded the second-fewest penalties with just 11 (China was the only team to concede less at 10 with one fewer game played) and the third-best power play, going four for 17 (23.53 percent).
All those stats are correct as of the conclusion of the quarter-final stage.
For Finland, it sets up a semi-final showdown with the USA in a rematch from the group stages which finished 5-2 in favour of the Americans.
This is not uncharted territory for Finland, as they finished in 2nd at the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship after upsetting Canada in the semi-finals and narrowly losing to the Americans in the final. Finland also has recent medal success, finishing in 3rd at the 2018 Olympics and the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship.
For Finland to pull off a victory against the USA, it will need to maintain its discipline and stay out of the box as Finland currently averages 4.4 penalties a game. It will also need to keep up its excellent penalty kill, which is at 85 percent.
Currently having the second-best power play, going seven for 19 (36.84 percent), Finland will need to take advantage of the USA having the second-worst penalty kill at 72.73 percent, which was at 57.14 percent prior to the quarter-final match with the Czech Republic.
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