Olympics Women’s Hockey Recap – Feb 8th & Feb 9th

USA gettin' it done.
USA gettin’ it done.

Raise your hand if you’re surprised that Canada and the US have been dominating the women’s hockey tournament so far! Just kidding, literally no one is surprised by this. The games kicked off February 8th, with USA getting a 3-1 win over Finland and Canada sending Switzerland packing, 5-0.

Switzerland has very little support for women’s hockey, and oh, does it show. Canada had 69 shots to Switzerland’s 14. That tells a pretty clear story on its own (though after the Olympics, we’ll be doing some statistical breakdowns of games), but it’s worth noting that Switzerland’s biggest problems were very clearly connected to their lack of practice as a cohesive team. In the defensive zone, they collapsed around whoever had the puck, leaving lanes wide open for Canada to pass in – and then score. In the offensive zone, Canada almost never had trouble clearing the puck; Switzerland just didn’t look like they knew what to do. The only bright spot for Switzerland so far has been goaltending Florence Schelling, who posted a .928 SV% for the CAN-SUI game. Not bad, Schelling. Sorry your name lends itself to the obvious, unfortunate pun.

Finland, in contrast, held the US to only 3 goals. Mind you, that first goal game at 0:53 in the first, from Hilary Knight – but overall, Noora Raty had a .930 SV%, and Finland in general had it together more than Switzerland. Finland is a legitimate contender in the sense that they are becoming competitive with the best teams in women’s hockey. Hopefully they’ll continue to develop and serve up an interesting game for the bronze – or even silver.

February 9th was Group B’s turn. Sweden won against Japan 1-0. Nana Fujimoto, the Japanese goaltender, put up an amazing performance against Sweden. Japan actually had a number of decent scoring chances, despite being shut out. They play an organized game that manages quite a bit of possession, considering what a new program they are. Mind, this will probably change once they play Canada or the USA, both of whom are more physical teams than Sweden, but it’s good to see two teams play such a tight game.

Russia – which has thrown support behind women’s hockey, boasting a professional hockey league of largely Russian players – shelled Germany 4-1. Russia has the elusive home ice advantage, if you believe in that kind of thing; at the very least, Russians turned out to support their women’s team in impressive numbers.

Players to watch: countries with less developed women’s hockey programs are bringing it in the goaltending department this tournament. Keep an especially close eye on Noora Raty, who’s playing behind a team that might actually help her carry them beyond bronze.

Hilary Knight has been a dominant presence for the US. On Canada’s side, Wickenheiser doesn’t appear to have rust on her, and Poulin is actually getting minutes, to the surprise of everyone familiar with Dineen. And, finally, Molly Schaus and Jessie Vetter are battling it out for the starting position in the medal games, with US coach Stone not naming a starter yet. That will be interesting to continue to watch.

Mid-Week Link Roundup: All Sochi, all the time.

Most of this week’s links are focused on Sochi, with the Games starting in just days now.

  • First Line Hockey has a great article about some of the more overlooked players on some of the Olympics teams. Loved seeing former Gopher Mira Jalusuo on that list. First Line Hockey is, in general, a quality read, and a good twitter follow, too. Find them on Twitter @FirstLineHockey.

  • CBC’s Olympics-focused website has an article on Kevin Dineen’s adaptation to coaching the Canadian women. He’s quoted as saying the women on the team ask a lot more about the whys of his decisions than the men he’s coached in the AHL and NHL, which I found interesting.

  • Joy Johnson, one of the UK’s top refs, is going to Sochi, and has been blogging about her Sochi experience! It’s a really interesting look behind the curtain of reffing women’s hockey, especially at such a high level.

  • The Washington Times had an article about the changes made to the women’s Olympic hockey tournament in order to encourage less US and Canadian dominance at the games. I know I’ve fielded some questions already on why the women’s tournament is so different from the men’s this year, so if you’re curious, take a look at this article.

  • ESPN-W has a profile piece on Amanda Kessel and her preparation for her first Olympics.  (Yes, I know, we’re a bit all Amanda Kessel all the time lately, but what can I say? She’s been electrifying to watch on the Gophers, and I’ve been following her with a great deal of interest.)
  • The New York Times, as part of their Olympic coverage, has a really interesting article about the Russian Women’s Championship, the Russian women’s pro league.

Ouellette Replaces Wickenheiser As Team Canada Olympic Captain

Per this article, Kevin Dineen (who’s not exactly a winning Team Canada coach, currently) has replaced Hayley Wickenheiser with Caroline Ouellette as the Team Canada Olympic captain.  This news is a bit old, but we were too busy dying in our sickbeds to post about it before.

Caroline Ouellette with the A for Canada, showing off all three of her gold medals.
Caroline Ouellette with the A for Canada, showing off all three of her gold medals.                    
Hayley Wickenheiser wearing the C for Canada, with just one of her three gold medals.
Hayley Wickenheiser wearing the C for Canada, with just one of her three gold medals.

 

 

 

Ouellette is a veteran who’s very good at hockey and probably just fine as a leader, but she’s not the winningest, most decorated women’s hockey player currently playing. Wickenheiser is carrying the flag for Canada, for God’s sake, a decision that fortunately is not subject to Dineen’s whims. I can’t see this move as anything but a fairly ridiculous attempt to establish the Dineen era as something worth noting – a delineation between the past and the Dineeny future, if you will. Forgive me if I’m not terribly impressed with that era so far. Congratulations to Ouellette, who has certainly paid her dues as a national player; but seriously, demoting Wickenheiser makes no sense.

Since we’re filthy Americans, we (or maybe just I; Kate has more sense) will be rooting for Dineen to be equally as irrational in who he chooses to play during the tournament. By which I mean, bench Poulin, Dineen. You know you want to. Do it. Do it for America, Dineen.

Weekly News for Dec. 31, 2013

Women’s National Teams: