This is the German women’s return to the Olympics, after failing to qualify for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The team qualified through a series of qualification tournaments played last February, 2013. You can see their roster HERE.
The team is very experienced in international play, with over 3000 international games between them, and unlike many of the national teams, all but two of their players have come up through the German hockey systems, versus coming out of the North America college hockey system. The German system is rather unique, in that the German Ministry of Defense has recently partnered with the German Ice Hockey Association in order to allow top athletes, including many of the Olympic team, to train full-time, while being paid to do so.
Not surprisingly, the Olympic roster is very similar to the roster at the last Women’s Worlds, where Germany came in 5th, beating Switzerland in their final game. Germany was the best team on the power play there. They were also the second ranked on the penalty kill, so clearly special teams are important to this team. (Interestingly, the team is made up mainly of left-handed shots.)
Franziska Busch is a player to look for in particular; she had one of the top ten face-off percentages in the tournament, and was ranked number three in scoring overall. On the defense, Susanne Fellner was one of the top ranked scoring defensemen for the Women’s Worlds, so look for her stepping up and taking the shots.
Germany’s goaltending was ranked third overall at Women’s Worlds too. Notably, they rotated their goaltenders more than some teams like Finland or Canada, who played their starter more heavily. Jennifer Harss, who played the second most minutes for Germany, had a SV% of 94.74, third ranked among the tournament’s goaltenders.
Russia qualified as the host country for the Olympics, not directly, as they were ranked 6th overall following the 2012 Women’s Worlds. That said, they just barely squeaked past getting into the top five and qualifying directly– they had 2650 points to fifth-ranked Sweden’s 2680. Russia made it into the playoff round for the Women’s Worlds in 2013, but lost to Canada in the Semi-Finals, and ended up playing Finland for 3rd place. Russia won, taking home the bronze.
You can see the complete roster for Sochi HERE, but a very notable omission from the Olympic roster was Russian goaltender Nadezdha Alexandrova. You might remember here from the Women’s Worlds, where she was a VERY visible presence for Russia. She was the top ranked goaltender for the tournament, with a SV% of 98.63%. She was selected as the Directorate Top Goaltender. She’s not in the Sochi line up because of pregnancy; in her absence, the likely starting netminder would be Anna Prugova. Prugova had a SVS% of 89.39, but only played 130 minutes at Women’s Worlds to Alexandrova’s 210. She was also on the Vancouver 2010 roster for Russia, but only played one game.
Anna Shibanova is another Russian player to look for; she was in the top five of scoring for defensemen at WW’13, with three assists and one goal over six games. She also scored the game-winning goal in the bronze medal game.
Yekaterina Smolentseva and Tatyana Burina, both of the Tornado Moscow Region team when not on the national team, were the top scorers for the Russian forwards at Worlds, both with five points in six games. Burina, notably, also was +5 for plus/minus.
The Tornado Moscow Region women’s hockey club is actually going to be very well represented, with eight players in total on the Olympic squad.
You can see Alexandra Kapustina and Alex Ovechkin modeling the Russian Olympic jerseys designed, like all the Olympic jersey, by Nike. I actually rather like these, but I’m going to be interested in seeing how well they contrast in an actual game with some of the other red-heavy jersey designs.
This is Japan’s first appearance at the Olympics since the 1998 Nagano Olympics, the inaugural Olympic appearance of women’s ice hockey. They only qualified as the host country in that Games, and lost all five of their games.
However, this time around, they’ve qualified through the qualification tournaments, like Germany. Japan won two of these the three games in the final qualifying tournament, and had 7 points in three games. While I definitely don’t see this team medalling, if they come out strong, they have a chance of advancing to the quarter-finals, despite being in a tough lower-seeded group. You can see their roster for Sochi HERE.
Japan’s team is also very strong on the penalty kill; in their last appearance at the Women’s Worlds Championship Division IA, they allowed only one goal on 13 penalties. One of the biggest parts of this PK was Ayaka Toko, who at the time was only 18 years old. She was voted Directorate Top Defenceman for the tournament as well.
Despite retiring after the team failed to qualify for the 2010 Olympics, Hanae Kubo has returned for the 2014 Games. She’s the all-time scorer for Team Japan, with 28 goals, and will definitely be a player to look for.
The Swedish team qualified directly as the fifth ranked team overall; despite that, the team has had a very up and down record recently. They almost didn’t send a team to Sochi, despite qualifying. In the 2013 Women’s Worlds, the team lost two of the three games in the preliminary round, eking out an overtime win against Germany. Statistically, they were pretty much middle of the pack all around– not terrible, not amazing.
At the Four Nations tournament in November, however, the team faced some criticism after losing all of their games in the tournament, some of them quite dramatically, such as a 0-10 and 1-8 against the US. Their closest game was a 3-4 lose against Canada. However, their head coach claimed that, going into the Olympics, they just need to return to the foundation of Swedish hockey, puck possession.
Returning for Sochi after some health problems is the star goaltender of the 2006 Olympics, when the team went to the final game, Kim Martin Hasson. She only played two games for the national team this season, but posted a 97.37 SV%, so expect to see her starting, health permitting. And boy oh boy, Sweden’s going to need that good goaltending; their leading scorer, Pernilla Winberg, has only five goals in 17 games. You can see their complete roster HERE.