US & Canada Rocking the Rink at Women’s Worlds

Posted April 6, 2013

Official Logo of the 2013 Women’s World Championship, being held in Ottawa this year. (Courtesy of IIHF)

In keeping with recent tradition, the US and Canada are taking no prisoners as they cruise through the preliminary rounds of the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championship.  Neither has a regulation loss on the books, as they head into the semifinals on Monday.  The only other team currently undefeated in regulation is Russia, who is playing in the other pool.

With the Sochi Olympics only eleven months away, this tournament is arguably the biggest of the year when it comes to media attention and scouting. This is the last chance teams will have to get a look at their expected Olympic competitors.  Canada and the US are getting their share of the attention this year, ranked first and 20-points-behind-first, respectively.  In case you needed more evidence that the North American women are a force to be reckoned with, take a look at the results of the preliminary round:

Canada: 13-0 over Switzerland, 8-0 over Finland, and a 3-2(SO) victory over the US.

US: 5-0 over Switzerland, 4-2 over Finland, and a 3-2(SO) loss to Canada.

Practical Details (What’s Happened, What’s Up Next)

When Canada defeated Finland 8-0, the brackets officially slotted into place and the preliminary round ended.

Quarterfinals open today, with Finland taking on Germany and Switzerland facing Russia.  Canada’s two shutouts gave them a bye for the quarters, so they’ll face the winner of Switzerland/Russia in the first semifinal slot.  Meanwhile, the US team will take on the winner of Germany/Finland in the other Semifinal slot.

The Czech Republic and Sweden will meet in a best of three relegation series.

Familiar Faces

Alexei Yashin, a former NHLer, serves as General Manager for Team Russia.  Under his watch at this tournament, they currently have the fewest goals against, with two shut outs of their own and single goal against (Congrats, Czech Republic, you did something right).  They also lead the tournament in points, since Canada’s 1st win came from a shootout that cost them a point.

Standout Performances:

Despite her team being shut out, Swiss goalie Florence Shelling made a remarkable 56 saves on 61 shots when facing the US team.  The Swiss goalies as a group have made a tournament-leading 164 saves.  Unfortunately, they have an equally tournament-topping 20 goals against, going into the elimination rounds.

The entirety of Team Canada gets a mention here.  After recovering from a 2-0 deficit to beat the US in game 1, Canada went on to a 13-0 blow-out against Switzerland, where all but one skater notched at least one point.  Marie-Philip Poulin had a 4-goal, 5-point night.

O Canada: A Moment of National Pride

Canada’s team has demonstrated their offensive flare from every angle, with seven players ranking in the top-ten for scoring leaders.  The above-mentioned Marie-Phillip Poulin scored a tournament-leading 7 points, followed closely by Jennifer Wakefield and Sarah Vaillancourt, who both have six points. In the team’s third game, Bailey Bram opened the scoring with her first career goal for Team Canada, and Brianne Jenner recorded her second two-goal.  Meghan Agosta-Marciano notched a hat trick.

On the back end, goalies Shannon Szabados (famous for her performance at the 2010 Olympics) and Charline Labonté  (a repeat Olympic gold-medalist) have put up impressive numbers, including two shutouts.  The team has only allowed two goals against, both scored while Szabados was in net.  Genevieve Lacasse has yet to dress for the team, and is currently the goaltender is reserve.

Eyes on Sochi

The various IIHF Championships (U20/WJC in January, Women’s Worlds, Men’s World Hockey Championship in May) allow both fans and teams to get a feel for the upcoming Olympic Games.  If you cheer for the USA, there’s a lot to look forward to.  There are plenty of repeat offenders on the US national team, and their new companions are nothing to sneeze at, either.

In goal for the US, both Jessie Vetter and Brianne McLaughlin helped bring home a silver medal in the Vancouver Olympics.  Behind them sits youngster Alex Rigsby, who is making her first appearance on an over 18 roster at the age of 21.

On the forward lines, team captain Julie Chu is making a run for her 10th medal in the tournament.  She’s also making a case for a repeat Olympic performance. The Lamoureux twins, Jocelyne and Monique, who medalled together in Vancouver as well, are suiting up for their third visit to World’s.  Amanda Kessel, sister to the current Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel, comes to her second World’s on the back of  an impressive NCAA season.  She scored 46 goals and 101 points while helping her University of Minnesota (Gophers) team to go 41-0-0 through the season.

On the blue line, last year’s point leader among US defensemen, Gigi Marvin, is already on the scoresheet with an assist. Megan Bozek made her debut at the WWC last year, and showed off her offensive abilities as well. Both are expected to be key players for the American team.

When it comes to the numbers, the most impressive players for the US have been Brianna Decker and Amanda Kessel, who lead the team with six points. Monique Lamoureux is second in goals, while twin Jocelyn is second in assists on the team with four.  Three of those were on goals from Monique. Megan Bozek and Gigi Marvin both have 2 assists, leading the team in points by defensemen.  Vetter has the lone US shutout, thusfar.

If you’re interested in catching some of the action, the quarter-finals begin at 3:30PM EDT this afternoon, as does the first of the relegation games.  The games are being streamed live here.  Expect to see some very good hockey.

Semi-finals are slated for Monday afternoon and evening(USA @ 3:30, Canada @ 7:30), and the Finals will be held on Tuesday evening at 7:30PM EDT.