Ahead of the two medal games in the Women’s ice hockey at Beijing 2022, The Inner Sanctum looks back at the semi-finals, and what the teams need to do to win their respective medal games.
Canada v Switzerland
Despite the 12-1 score line in the group stage match between these two teams, this semi-final was a little closer, and full of excitement as it was another 13-goal game, this time ending 10-3 in favour of the Canadians.
It looked like it was very much going to be a repeat of the first game, as Canada raced out to a five-goal lead in the first period, scoring those five goals between the 7:16 and 10:40 marks of the first period.
Switzerland would change goalies after the fourth goal, pulling Andrea Bräendli for Saskia Maurer.
With 1:23 to go in the first period, Switzerland would give themselves a little bit of life, as Lara Stalder would put one past Ann-Renee Desbiens with Alina Müller providing the assist to cut the Canadian lead to four heading into the break.
Five minutes into the second period, it would be Stalder putting it onto Müller’s stick this time around as Switzerland started to gather momentum and cut Canada’s lead to three and give Switzerland a chance at getting back into the match.
In a frenzied period of play which would see the next three goals scored in 1:52 Canada would regain the four-goal lead as Marie-Philip Poulin and Emily Clark would score for Canada just nine seconds apart, before Lara Stalder would get her second, this time on the power play, giving Switzerland its last goal of the game.
Poulin would score a second before the period was over to give Canada its five-goal lead back. Emma Maltais would score her first goal at the Olympics to put up Canada’s ninth, and Brianne Jenner scored Canada’s 10th goal to round out the scoring in the third period, marking the fourth time in this Olympics that Canada would put up double digit goals in a game.
The victory for Canada would set up a trip back to the gold medal game, while Switzerland heads to the bronze medal game.
USA v Finland
For the second straight game, the USA was in a much closer contest than it should have been. A 4-1 result flatters the USA and on the surface would discredit Finland from the hard work it put in all game.
A scoreless first period saw no penalties and a shot count of 12-6 in favour of the Americans, showing that neither side was going to give an inch and that if either side wanted to score, it was going to be earnt.
The first penalty of the game would come just over two minutes into the second period, and Cayla Barnes would put home the USA’s first to give the advantage to the Americans.
Hillary Knight would score with 1:07 to go in the period to give the USA a hard-fought two goal lead as the shot count would go to 33-12 in favour of the USA, rewarding the USA’s consistent offence.
The third period saw the USA put up another nine shots to bring the game total to 42 for the Americans in a third period where a desperate Finland side would put up 14 of its own to bring its total to 26 to try and stay in the game.
It would however take most of the period for the USA to put the game to bed, with Hayley Scamurra putting the third goal away with just under five minutes to go.
Finland would get a chance to get back into the game, as Abby Roque would get sent to the box on a tripping minor penalty, and Finland would pull Anni Keisala for the extra attacker as the Finns would attempt to score three goals in 3:58.
The Americans successfully killed off the penalty by heaping a ton of pressure on the Finland power play units, with a USA defender getting to whichever Finland player had possession almost immediately after they took control of the puck.
Susanna Tapani would get one back for the Finns with 26 seconds to go, but it was too little too late and Abby Roque would slide home the empty net goal for the Americans with five seconds to go.
The victory for the Americans set up a trip back to the gold medal game against Canada.
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Bronze Medal Game – Finland v Switzerland (Wednesday, February 16, 10:30pm AEDT, 7:30pm local time)
With both sides having met in a group stage match which ended 3-2 in favour of Switzerland, in theory the game plan should be similar for Switzerland to replicate success but it will be a little tougher in this game with the stakes that are on the line.
For Switzerland to find success in the bronze medal game, it will need to rely on what the game plan has been throughout this entire tournament.
Playing a nice clean game along with the tenacity and determination it has shown in every game, even in relatively one-sided defeats.
The Swiss will also need to try and get Finland to slip up and continue to take penalties. In their group stage game, the scoring was opened because the Swiss were able to get a 5v3 opportunity and were successful, and they did the same in their group stage game against Canada.
Finland have been short-handed 22 times throughout the tournament, but only giving up four goals for an 81.82 per cent success rate on the penalty kill.
The Switzerland power play has gone six for 27 throughout the tournament for a 22.22 per cent success rate, so upping those numbers will go a long way to helping Sweden repeat the success of the 2014 Olympics and get a bronze medal.
For Finland to find success in the bronze medal game, a low event hockey game will be the key to victory.
Despite a strong penalty kill, Finland will need to stay out of the penalty box but try to force Switzerland into ill-discipline as it will have the best chance to dominate this game at 5v5 play or on the power play.
The Finns are currently converting on 9.68 per cent of shots, scoring 18 goals from 186 shots, with seven of those goals coming from 21 opportunities on the power play (33.33 per cent).
A big advantage for Finland is that it has looked much better as the tournament has gone on, after a very tough first two outings against USA (5-2 loss) and Canada (11-1 loss).
The goaltending for both sides is in the bottom two with Finland letting in 24 goals from 210 shots faced (88.57 per cent) and Switzerland letting in 29 goals from 292 shots faced (86.64 per cent).
This stat however is a little misleading as both sides suffered blowout losses to Canada in the group stage, and Switzerland suffering a second blowout loss in the semi-finals.
Gold Medal Game – Canada v USA (Thursday, February 17, 3:10pm AEDT, 12:10pm local time)
With their group stage match ending 4-2 in favour of the Canadians, it is advantage to the Canadians as this North American rivalry adds another chapter to its storied history as both sides compete for gold. Canada will be looking to right the wrongs of 2018 where it lost in the final to the USA, while the Americans will be looking for back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
For Canada to have success in the gold medal game, the path to victory is a rather simple one. Continue doing what has worked so far. Stifle the USA, use the scoring talent available to create an unassailable lead, and have a complete performance from everyone on the team.
Canada have been far and away the best team in the tournament, putting up record breaking numbers on its way to the final.
With a game remaining, Canada has eclipsed the previous goals record of 48, which it set 12 years ago, with a total of 54. It would not be a surprise if Canada was able to reach 60 here, given the ease at which they have been scoring.
Every skater for the Canadians has also recorded at least one assist, while all bar four players have recorded a goal.
As previously mentioned throughout the coverage here on The Inner Sanctum, the ill-discipline for Canada continues to be an issue, having taken a total now of 32 penalties, averaging 5.33 a game.
The penalty kill however has offset the ill-discipline of Canada, only giving up four goals on the 31 times it has been short-handed (which includes one 5v3 against Switzerland), for a success rate of 87.10 per cent, second only to China who in their four group stage games before being eliminated only gave up one goal on the 10 times it was shorthanded for a 90 per cent success rate.
For the USA to have success in the gold medal game, the clearest path to victory is to improve on its scoring and to take full advantage of the ill-discipline of Canada by converting on the power play.
The Americans have currently put up 334 shots on goal for just 28 goals (8.38 per cent). The next highest team in terms of shots on goal is Canada at 311, with 54 goals (17.36 per cent). This will need to improve as the Americans will find it very hard to stifle the offence of the high-flying Canadians and the best way to win will be to outscore Canada.
Canada was able to dominate the group stage game by dictating the way the game was played. This is something that the Americans will need to work hard to ensure that they are the ones dictating the game.
In the group stage game, when Canada was forced to defend, it set up the zone in a way that forced the Americans away from the slot and to the outer reaches of the zone. This forced the Americans in a game in which they were trailing to put low-risk shots on goal, which inflated the shots on goal numbers.
Given they were low-risk shots from bad angles, they had very little chance of penetrating the Canadian net, and therefore decreasing the chances of Canada giving up goals to allow the USA back into the game.
If the USA is not able to successfully do these things, a silver medal awaits, while Canada will get the gold for the first time since 2014.
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