It's a long, long road
What's struck me throughout this tourney so far is how close so many of these countries are with regard to getting on equal footing. Team Chezchia blends skill with physical play; Team Germany has a great defensive ability; Team Sweden has a group of teenage phenoms leading them in points scored thus far.
Despite what perhaps some of the broadcasters would have you believe, there are a number of teams not named the United States and Canada who have speed, skill, tight systems, and considerable talent. While some federations have made some questionable moves, I get that there's still work to be done and people willing to do it in order to grow women's hockey globally.
Indeed, my frustration is more so with the lack of well-rounded coverage concerning these other teams. I get that for North American telecasts, the focus is going to be on those teams, but I can't help but feel there's something more to be done with regard to highlighting Europe and Asia's strongest players.
Day 6 Recap
Then again, they've only recently started acknowledging that the PHF (where quite a few of these players hone their craft) exists, so... maybe I'm just getting too far ahead of myself. Anyway, let's break down today's games.
Hungary 0, Finland 5
It's continuing to be a dream run for Finland in Group B, as they scored twice on the power play and blanked a Hungarian squad that, up until late in the second, had been keeping up with them defensively.
Jenni Hiirikoski got on the board for the first time this tournament with the second Finnish goal, and Sanni Ahola was perfect in net with 15 saves. Sanni Vanhanen also continues her unreal playmaking prowess, tallying two assists on the day.
Switzerland 4, Japan 3
They carried a 2-0 lead into the second period on goals by Remi Koyama and Yoshino Enomoto, then went up late in the middle frame off the stick of Aoi Shiga after coughing up that lead. Unfortunately, a win was not to be -- veterans Alina Muller and Lara Stalder combined for three points (2 G, 1 A) in the third, ensuring the Swiss would be insulated (at least a bit) from relegation. That marks the end of a tournament for a Japanese squad that showed a lot of speed and spark, but not the finish needed to stick with the top squads.
Canada 4, USA 3(Overtime, SO)
This game was, by all accounts, an absolute whirlwind -- as we should come to expect from both of these countries. Hannah Bilka got the party started with a power play goal, extending her hot streak, but Canada took the lead soon enough as a string of penalties handcuffed the U.S.
Late in the third, it looked like all was done when Laura Stacey scored an empty-netter, but head coach John Wroblewski and the Americans definitely were not done yet. After a weird scoreboard error, a rebound goal by Hilary Knight was ruled to be a good goal (even though the U.S. entered the zone offside by my estimation, but okay), and then after a lot of bench talk, Amanda Kessel stuffed home a greasy one with less than four seconds remaining to force overtime.
From there, we got a nine-round shootout, where Brianne Jenner and Hilary Knight scored in the first attempt, and then finally, Jamie Lee Rattray put it home on a beautiful move in the ninth to give Canada a perfect record heading into the quarters.
This game also had an interesting development in that Kelly Pannek seems not to have faced further disciplinary action following her match penalty Sunday against Czechia. The forward was sent off in the third for an illegal hit to the head after essentially launching into Kristyna Patkova elbow-first, and yet the IIHF has been strangely quiet on the matter.
Pannek was subsequently in the lineup against Canada. We're working on getting more clarification on what's going on there, as the IIHF has been very quick on other player suspensions up to this point. I just think it's funny what they've been vocal about vs. not vocal about so far in this tourney.
Here's the hit for those interested.
Day 7 Schedule
At any rate, tomorrow concludes the round-robin portion of the tournament, with Hungary and Germany getting the party started in the 11 a.m. timeslot. Sweden and France close out Group B play at 3 p.m., and Czechia faces off against Switzerland at 7 p.m.
Canada - 11 points
United States - 10 points
Switzerland - 3 points
Chezchia - 2 points
Japan - 1 point
Finland - 12 points
Germany - 6 points
Sweden - 3 points
Hungary - 3 points
France - 0 points